Anthropogenic disturbances can promote establishment and growth of predator populations in areas where secondary prey can then become threatened. In this study, we investigated habitat selection of eastern coyotes (Canis latrans), a relatively new predator in the vicinity of an endangered population of caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). We hypothesized that coyotes in the boreal forest depend mainly on disturbed habitat, particularly that of anthropogenic origin, because these habitats provide increased food accessibility. Coyotes would likely take advantage of moose (Alces alces) carcasses, berries, and snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) found in open habitats created by logging. To test these predictions, we described coyote diet and habitat selection at different spatial and temporal levels and then compared resource availability between habitats. To do so, we installed Global Positioning System radiocollars on 23 individual coyotes in the Gaspésie Peninsula, eastern Québec, Canada. Coyotes selected clear-cuts of 5–20 years and avoided mature coniferous forests both at the landscape and home-range levels. Clear-cuts of 5–20 years were found to contain a high availability of moose carcasses and berries, and vulnerability of snowshoe hares is known to increase in clear-cuts. The importance of these 3 food resources was confirmed by the characteristics of core areas used by coyotes and diet analysis. Moose remains were found at 45% of core areas and coyote diet comprised 51% moose on an annual basis. Anthropogenic disturbances in the boreal forest thus seem to benefit coyotes. Our results indicated that the relationship between coyotes and caribou likely involves spillover predation. This knowledge allows managers to consider spillover predation by coyotes as a possible threat for endangered caribou population when the predator depends mainly on habitat of anthropogenic origin and to suggest methods to alleviate it when developing management plans.
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Vol. 74 • No. 1