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Coyote, Canis latrans, Use of Commercial Sunflower, Helianthus spp., Seeds as a Food Source in Western Kansas


We found 23 Coyote scats during our systematic searches of the study area. Based on the buffered locations of scats, we believe these represented a minimum of seven individual Coyote family units. The mean scat weight was 12.84 g (SD = 8.92).

Mammals were the most frequently occurring food item in Coyote diets (Table 1). Overall, 10 families and 16 genera of mammals were identified as food items. Commercial sunflower seeds were second in frequency (39%). In 4 of 9 (44%) scats that we found containing commercial sunflower seeds, seed remains constituted ≥30% of the volume; with an overall mean of 31%. The broken shells of commercial sunflower seeds occurred in 7 of 18 scats collected in April and 2 of 5 scats collected in July. Eight of the nine scats containing sunflower seeds were found in the northern portion of the study area. Insects occurred frequently in the Coyote diet, representing two orders and four families. Birds occurred infrequently in the scats; bird remains consisted only of small broken feather shafts, and thus no species could be identified.

Table 1.  Frequency of occurrence (n) and percent frequency of occurrence (%) of prey items found in 23 Coyote scats collected in western Kansas during April-July 1996.
  n %
PLANT 1 9 39
   Commercial sunflower seeds 9 39
MAMMAL 23 100
   Sylvilagus spp., cottontail 5 22
   Lepus californicus, Black-tailed Jackrabbit 2 9
   Unknown Leporidae 10 43
   Microtus spp., vole 9 39
   Spermophilus spp., ground squirrel 2 9
   Cynomys ludovicianus, Black-tailed Prairie Dog 1 4
   Geomys bursarius, Plains Pocket Gopher 5 22
   Dipodomys ordii, Ord's Kangaroo Rat 5 22
   Reithrodontomys spp., harvest mouse 2 9
   Peromyscus spp., white-footed mouse 13 57
   Onychomys leucogaster, Northern Grasshopper Mouse 3 13
   Zapus hudsonius, Western Jumping Mouse 1 4
   Mustela frenata, Long-tailed Weasel 1 4
   Mephitis mephitis, Striped Skunk 4 17
   Odocoileus spp., mule or white-tailed Deer 3 13
   Antilocapra americana, Pronghorn 7 30
   Bos taurus, Domestic Cattle 4 17
   Unknown mammal 11 48
BIRD 2 9
   Unknown bird 2 9
   Carabidae, ground beetle 3 13
   Tenebrionidae, darkling beetle 2 9
   Scarabidae, scarab beetle 1 4
   Unknown Coleoptera 6 26
   Acrididae, short-horned grasshopper 1 4
   Unknown Orthoptera 2 9
   Unknown insect 2 9
1 The overall frequency of occurrence of plants does not include the grass or other seeds categories. Grass was excluded because its nutritional value in the Coyote diet is questionable (Fichter et al. 1955). The other seeds category was excluded because the seeds occurred in trace amounts and ingestion was likely incidental to consuming other foods (e.g., seed-eating prey item).

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