Coyote (<i>Canis latrans</i>) use of marine resources in coastal California: A new behavior relative to their recent ancestors

Published on 2018-08-09T12:00:00Z (GMT) by
<div><p>Coyotes (<i>Canis latrans</i>) are known to consume marine foods, but the importance and persistence of marine subsidies to coyotes is unknown. Recent access to a marine subsidy, especially if gained following apex predator loss, may facilitate coyote expansion along coastal routes and amplify the effects of mesopredator release. Our goal was to quantify and contextualize past and present marine resource use by coyotes on the central coast of California via stable isotope analysis. We measured <i><i>δ</i></i><sup>13</sup>C and <i><i>δ</i></i><sup>15</sup>N values in coyotes, their competitors, and their food resources at two modern sites, seven archaeological sites spanning in age from ~3000 to 750 BP, and from historical (AD 1893–1992) coyote and grizzly bear hair and bone sourced from coastal counties. We found evidence for marine resource use by modern coastal California coyotes at one site, Año Nuevo, which hosts a mainland northern elephant seal (<i>Mirounga angustirostris</i>) breeding colony. Seals and sea lions account for ~20% of Año Nuevo coyote diet throughout the year and this marine subsidy likely positively impacts coyote population size. Isotopic data suggest that neither historic nor prehistoric coyotes consumed marine-derived foods, even at sites near ancient mainland seal rookeries. Marine resource use by some contemporary California coyotes is a novel behavior relative to their recent ancestors. We hypothesize that human alteration of the environment through extirpation of the California grizzly bear and the more recent protection of marine mammals likely enabled this behavioral shift.</p></div>

Cite this collection

Reid, Rachel EB; Gifford-Gonzalez, Diane; Koch, Paul L (2018): Coyote (Canis latrans) use of marine resources in coastal California: A new behavior relative to their recent ancestors. SAGE Journals. Collection.