Spatial Analysis Differentiates New York Coyotes Between Two Colonizing Fronts
The importance of population spatial structure in widely distributed, highly mobile, generalist species is often overlooked, but identifying structure can help explain regional differences in demographics, habitat affinities, and movement patterns for management purposes. Coyotes are ubiquitous top predators that can influence the broader ecological system. In New York, two leading edges of colonization met in the early 1900s: one front of “pure” coyotes from the Southwest and another front of forest-adapted coyote-wolf hybrids (“coy-wolves”) from Canada. Forest Service scientists and their research partners used spatial genetic methods to identify the contact zone of these colonizing fronts. Coyotes in the rugged forested regions of New York were found to be genetically different from coyotes in the mixed agricultural-forest areas. The forest-adapted coyotes may be out-competing western coyotes and preventing gene flow, thereby reinforcing genetic spatial structure in this highly mobile species. The identification of these two groups helps explain reported differences in coyote density in relation to amount of forest cover, lower dispersal rates and distances, larger coyote group sizes, and diet differences across the state. The spatial data allowed scientists to differentiate coyote lineages that previously could not be identified through other means.
Forest Service Partners