Many studies have documented that coyotes (Canis latrans) are the greatest source of natural mortality for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) neonates (<3 months old). With the range expansion of coyotes eastward in North America, many stakeholders are concerned that coyote predation may be affecting deer populations adversely. We hypothesized that declines in neonate survival, perhaps caused by increasing coyote predation, could be offset by adjusting or eliminating antlerless harvest allocations. We used a stochastic, age-based population simulation model to evaluate combinations of low neonate survival rates, severe winters, and low adult deer survival rates to determine the effectiveness of reduced antlerless harvest at stabilizing deer populations. We found that even in regions with high winter mortality, reduced antlerless harvest rates could stabilize deer populations with recruitment and survival rates reported in the literature. When neonate survival rates were low (25%) and yearling and adult female survival rates were reduced by 10%, elimination of antlerless harvests failed to stabilize populations. Our results suggest increased deer mortality from coyotes can be addressed through reduced hunting harvest of adult female deer in most circumstances throughout eastern North America. However, specific knowledge of adult female survival rates is important for making management decisions in areas where both neonate and adult survival may be affected by predation and other mortality factors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation