Over the last 30 years coyotes (Canis latrans) have expanded their range into peninsular Florida and over that time populations have increased. Coyotes are opportunistic apex predators and play an important role in wildlife populations, both positive and negative. Unfortunately, coyotes interfere and damage livestock production, most commonly through calf loss.
Using GPS collars on coyotes on private ranches we hope to help answering the following questions:
How often do coyote interact with cattle and cause calf loss?
How does coyote behavior change during calving season?
How do coyotes use rangeland habitat?
Examining coyote habitat use and interaction with cattle
Ke Zhang, MS Student
We collared 15 coyotes for a period of 6 months starting in November 2014 and recovered 11 of 15 collars. Ke Zhang's masters work has shown that the coyote extensively use many habitats across Florida ranches but are more often found using open pasture and rangeland, over heavily forested habitats, wet habitats, agriculture crops or human communities. There average home range size is about 4500acres, with core use areas being 500-1000acres. We also found that even though coyotes use improved pasture extensively there is no difference in the use of pastures if cattle are present or not, suggesting that coyotes are probably hunting for many other species in pasture and opportunistically attacking calves if they can.
Determining if Donkeys are Effective at Guarding Livestock from Coyotes
Sam Baraoidan, MS Student
The overall objective of my research is to determine how effective donkeys are at guarding livestock and their influence on coyote (Canis latrans) behavior on Florida rangelands. Specific objectives are:
Use an array of game cameras to determine if the presence or absence of donkeys influences coyote activity.
Explore how other factors, such as time of year, pasture size, and reproductive stage of cattle, might influence these relationships.
Calf depredation is a major source of conflict between coyotes and Florida cattle ranchers.
Coyote depredation patterns are highly variable across space and time, even within a single ranch.
Ranchers have started as using livestock guarding animals such as: domestic dogs, donkeys, and llamas.
Donkeys can tolerate Florida's climate, are less expensive then dogs and show instinctual aggression toward canines.
Many donkeys will kick, bray, stomp, bare their teeth, or otherwise try to intimidate coyotes, dogs, or other canines that approach them.
At our field site on Buck Island Ranch, donkeys were introduced in the spring of 2016 in an effort to reduce coyote depredation on calves.
Game cameras are deployed across the site, with about 1 km between cameras.
Data is currently being analyzed.
We will share the results of our analysis with the ranching community, in order to help ranchers make more informed decisions to reduce calf loss.
This project was made possible by funding and collaboration with the USDA and the NWRC. Collaborators: Stewart Breck, Mike Avery, and Eric Tillman, USDA. Contributors: Cary Lightsey, Lightsey Cattle Company. Jim Strickland, Blackbeard's Ranch. The MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center. Ralph Pfister, Adams Ranch.