Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Coyote, Canis latrans, Use of Commercial Sunflower, Helianthus
spp., Seeds as a Food Source in Western Kansas
Food-habit studies of Coyotes (Canis latrans) in the Great Plains region
(e.g., Fichter et al. 1955; Gier 1968; Springer and Smith 1981; Gese et al.
1988a; Brillhart and Kaufman 1994, 1995; Lewis et al. 1994) have demonstrated
that Coyotes are opportunistic predators, responding to available food sources.
In recent years, commercial sunflower (Helianthus spp.) crops have increased
greatly throughout this region; between 1990-1996, land planted to sunflower
crops (oil and non-oil use combined) in Kansas increased from 30 352 ha to 115
336 ha (National Agricultural Statistics Service 1999). Use of commercial sunflower
seeds as an appreciable food source previously has not been documented for Coyotes.
However, use of commercial sunflower seeds as food has been documented for other
carnivores including American Badger (Taxidea taxus; Sovada et al. 1999),
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes; Sargeant et al. 1986), Raccoon (Procyon lotor;
Greenwood 1981), Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis; Greenwood 1999), and
Swift Fox (Vulpes velox; Sovada et al. 2001). Sunflower seed protein
and fat content average 6 g and 14 g per 28 g, respectively (National Sunflower
Association 1989), providing a potentially high quality food source.
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