Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Coyotes (Canis latrans) and Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) are sympatric throughout much of the lynx’s southern range. Researchers and managers have suggested that the presence of compacted snowmobile trails may allow coyotes to access lynx habitat from which they were previously excluded by deep, unconsolidated snow. This could then allow coyotes to more effectively compete with lynx for snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), the lynx’s primary prey. We investigated how coyotes interacted with compacted snowmobile trails by conducting carnivore track surveys and by snow tracking adult coyotes (4 M, 8 F) in areas of western Montana, USA, with both documented lynx presence and recreational snowmobile use. Coyotes remained in lynx habitat having deep snow throughout the winter months. They used compacted snowmobile trails for 7.69% of their travel distance and traveled on them for a median distance of 124 m. Coyotes used compacted forest roads (5.66% of total travel) and uncompacted forest roads (4.62% of total travel) similarly. Coyotes did not travel closer to compacted snowmobile trails than random expectation (coyote x distance from compacted trails=368 m, random expectation=339 m) and the distance they traveled from these trails did not vary with daily, monthly, or yearly changes in snow supportiveness or depth. However, they strongly selected for naturally shallower and more supportive snow surfaces when traveling off compacted snowmobile trails. Coyotes were primarily scavengers in winter (snowshoe hare kills composed 3% of coyote feed sites) and did not forage closer to compacted snowmobile trails than random expectation. The overall influence of snowmobile trails on coyote movements and foraging success during winter appeared to be minimal on our study area. The results of this study will allow land managers to better assess the effects of snow-compacting activities on coyotes and lynx.
Kolbe, Jay A.; Squires, John R.; Pletscher, Daniel H.; Ruggiero, Leonard F. 2007. The effect of snowmobile trails on coyote movements within lynx home ranges. Journal of Wildlife Management. 71(5): 1409-1418.