Social and nutritional factors influencing the dispersal of resident coyotes
Gese, E.M., Ruff, R.L. and Crabtree, R.L.
Animal Behaviour, Vol. 52 Issue 5 pp. 1025-1043
Factors influencing the likelihood that a coyote, Canis latrans, will disperse or remain in its natal pack are not well understood. The social and nutritional factors influencing the dispersal of resident coyotes in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming were examined by observing 49 coyotes from five resident packs for 2456 h from January 1991 to June 1993. One of two strategies was adopted: disperse or remain in the natal pack (philopatry). Dispersing coyotes were low-ranking pups, or low-ranking betas, who spent little time with other pack members and were typically subordinate during interactions with other members of their pack. Dominant (alpha) coyotes and higher-ranking betas did not disperse. Dispersers had little or no access to ungulate carcasses during winter compared with higher-ranking, philopatric individuals in the pack. The ability to capture small mammals also became important in determining which animals remained or dispersed. When pack size increased in the winter of 1992–1993, possibly intensifying competition at ungulate carcasses, philopatric pups and betas captured small mammals at a higher rate than dispersing coyotes. Individuals that remained in the pack were dominant and higher-ranking, typically had greater access to carcasses in their respective packs and captured small mammals at a higher rate than dispersing individuals when pack sizes were largest. Philopatric coyotes remained within their pack with the objective of advancing to the alpha breeding position. Low-ranking, subordinate coyotes left their natal pack and attempted to establish themselves in either adjacent or distant territories.