Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type

Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program

Biology

Degree Name

Master of Science

Thesis Advisor

Dr. William Rogers

Committee Member

Dr. Janice Chism

Committee Member

Dr. Jennifer Schafer

Committee Member

Dr. Salvatore Blair

Abstract

With increasing rates of urban expansion, interactions between humans and wildlife become inevitable. These urban environments present novel situations to native species, frequently resulting in their displacement or extirpation. However, some species, often referred to as “urban adapters”, have thrived in these landscapes. Coyotes (Canis latrans) are a prime example of a species that has adapted to exploit urban habitats. Coyotes are omnivores with food choices ranging from small/medium mammals to invertebrates depending on habitat. With their recent range expansion into the Southeast, little is known of their behavioral ecology in the region, especially details relating to their diet. Macroscopic and stable isotope analyses of scat were used to study the diets of rural and urban coyotes in the Piedmont Region of South Carolina to assess the relative content of anthropogenic food sources in their diet. Over three time intervals (breeding, 1 January- 30 April; pup-rearing, 1 May-31 August; dispersal, 1 September- 31 December), 20 scats were collected from 13 sites; 10 scats were urban, and 10 scats were from rural locations. Macroscopic materials were separated into categories of bone, hair, seeds, vegetation, insect exoskeletons, and anthropogenic materials. To identify the presence of anthropogenic food sources that may not have been visible macroscopically, stable isotope analysis was used. Higher δ13C content is an indication of potential anthropogenic food sources due to corn-based foods being a primary staple of human diet in the region. I hypothesized that urban coyote diets would contain more anthropogenic food sources and thus have higher carbon levels compared to rural diets. I found that there was no significant difference in 13C and 15N isotope levels in coyote iii scats between rural and urban environments overall. Nor was there a significant difference in 13C and 15N isotope levels between rural and urban habitats across seasons. Furthermore, I found no difference between macroscopic components between rural and urban coyote scats.

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