Canadian Researchers Find Evidence That Coyotes Really Do Hunt Moose
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
New evidence published in Thursday’s edition of the Canadian Journal of Zoology suggests that, contrary to popular belief, coyotes are capable of taking down and devouring an adult moose.
Study authors Dr. John Benson, a doctoral student in the Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program at Trent University when the research was conducted, and Dr. Brent Patterson, a research scientist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, captured eastern coyotes and coyote x wolf hybrids (canids) for the study.
They outfitted each creature with GPS radio-collars and took blood samples for DNA analysis, they explained in a statement. The collars provided Dr. Benson and Dr. Patterson with precise locations of the study animals, allowing the investigators to visit those areas during the winter months to probe the animals’ activities and document their predatory patterns. The genetic analysis allowed them to determine whether the animals were wolves, coyotes or canids.
During their investigation, the researchers found documented instances in which packs of coyotes and canids had slaughtered moose. In fact, they found four canid packs of between two and five creatures in size had successfully killed such prey. Dr. Benson and Dr. Patterson reported that one of the moose that had been killed was advanced in age (20 years), while the other was on the younger side (20 months).
The older and younger adult moose are believed to be more vulnerable, due to the inexperience of the 20-month-old and the deteriorating physical condition of the 20-year-old cervid (moose), the researchers said. They believe that coyotes and the hybrids prey on moose rarely, and only when circumstances are in their favor, they added.
“For instance, when snow is deep and a hard crust forms on top this impedes the ability of moose to travel and gives the lighter coyotes and hybrids an advantage because they can travel on top of the snow,” Dr. Benson said. “Additionally, we noticed that some of the moose killed by coyotes and hybrids were on steep slopes that may have slowed the moose and created unstable footing.”
“Killing of adult moose by eastern coyotes and coyote x wolf hybrids appears to be relatively rare and probably does not pose a threat to moose populations in central Ontario,” he added. “However, from the perspective of a pack of coyotes or hybrids, killing even a single moose during a winter is very beneficial and goes a long way towards helping them meet their energetic demands”