Category Archives: Predators & Varmints

What do Coyotes Eat: Food Habits in Texas

Coyotes (Canis latrans) can be found across Texas, the US and the North American continent. Because coyotes are such versatile animals with diverse diets, high reproductive potential, and the ability to adapt to changing habitats – they continue to inhabit new areas. Since the range of the coyote is so great and transcends ecoregions, their diet reflects a variance from vegetarianism to dependence on big game species depending upon what is available. Most determinations about the diet of coyotes are, and should be viewed as, site-specific rather than regional. It’s more about what’s abundant within a coyote’s home range than what they most like to eat.

Coyotes are generally accepted as opportunistic feeders or generalists; however, some believe that coyotes are highly selective predators. Even though coyotes are archetypal generalists, some individuals may specialize on particular prey. The theory of optimal foraging states that the predator selects certain prey because the amount of energy gained from that particular prey is greater than the amount of energy expended during its capture.

Food Habits of Coyotes

A pair of coyotes can be energetically sustained for two days on a single lamb, but it would take approximately 10 jackrabbits, or 20 ground squirrels to do the same. This means that from an energy conservation standpoint, it would be more advantageous for coyotes to specialize in the predation of lambs rather than small mammals. Another reason for prey specialization may be that a coyote, during a stressful period, turns to a certain available prey species, subsequently develops a taste for that animal and continues to prey upon it. This is often the case when a coyote specializes in the predation of livestock.

Coyotes have the ability to assess and select the most profitable food items within a wide variety of prey. Some foods are selected for more than others during certain seasons. This is more likely due to food availability of these particular items during these seasons. The frequency of predation upon big game animals during late winter months and into the spring can be directly connected to the breeding season of the coyote. Because coyotes are in larger groups at this time, it is easier for them to take down larger prey. Ungulates such as white-tailed deer will hide their fawns while for-aging, leaving them helpless against a coyote looking for a meal to take to her pups.

In July of 2014, The TPWD Kerr Wildlife Management Area (WMA), in conjunction with The University of Texas – San Antonio (UTSA), initiated a study on the dietary habits of coyotes in the Texas Hill Country. In this study, coyote scat found throughout the WMA will be collected and processed to identify all food items in each sample. At the same time, baseline food availability surveys will be conducted seasonally across the entire WMA.

After all scat samples are processed and the amount of each food item found has been quantified, each food item will be compared to the results of the availability surveys. The results of the fecal analyses when compared to the baseline food availability surveys should allow the determination of whether coyotes are behaving as generalists, or opportunistic foragers specific to the Kerr WMA.

To become better wildlife managers, we must realize the importance of holistic ecosystem management and shy away from a single species approach. Coyotes are an important component to the ecosystem of Texas. As with the management of any species, the more knowledge we gain about coyotes, the better we understand their role, and the better we can manage for a healthy ecosystem.

Bobcat Habitat: Do Bobcats Live in the City?

Can Bobcats Live in Urban Areas

“Bobcats have learned to thrive in urban areas and will always be a part of our urban wildlife community,” said Derek Broman, TPWD urban wildlife biologist in Dallas. “The goal of this research effort is to answer important questions about urban wildlife to help DFW area cities and counties improve communication to their residents about how wildlife and people can co-exist.”

Researchers, wildlife managers and local government officials from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Utah State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service-National Wildlife Research Center, and Welder Wildlife Foundation have begun a study on the ecology of bobcats in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The purpose of the study is to better understand how bobcats live with humans in highly urbanized landscapes. Continue reading

Predator Control and Wildlife Management

Wildlife management is about providing and manipulating plant communities. It’s commonly referred to as habitat management, and it’s critical for the survival of many plant and animal species. Sometimes wildlife management is also about predators. Predators are wildlife, but the term predators does necessarily refer to any particular animal. Some predators are generalist, some are quite specific. A skunk may be a predator of ground nesting birds, but not of birds that nest in trees. Raccoons would be more likely to climb and impact critters found in trees.

Native and introduced predators abound in most plant communities. Indigenous predators such as coyote and bobcat prey on many wildlife species including white-tailed deer. In fact, studies indicate significant fawn losses due to coyote predation. Fecal sample analysis of coyotes found deer hair in droppings during every month of the year. Native predators, such as bobcats, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and snakes, have an impact on birds, small mammals and herptofauna. Continue reading

Palo Pinto Ocelot Not a Native Cat

Game warden Matthew Waggoner found a dead ocelot along a highway near Mineral Wells, more than 400 miles from the nearest documented wild population of the endangered cats. Strange. A phone call received by Texas game warden Matthew Waggoner took two weeks ago was like one game wardens and wildlife biologists get every year — somebody saw, found, or hit something and they are not sure what type of wild animal they have stumbled across.

People regularly contact Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) with reports they have seen, photographed or found some dead unusual animal — one that doesn’t exist, is extinct in Texas or is so rare and the report coming from so far from the animal’s range that it’s unlikely the caller saw what he thought he saw. Continue reading

Texas Game Warden Injured by Alligator

How many alligators are in Texas?

Texas may not seem like suitable alligator habitat to those that don’t know much about our State, but Texas residents know that we have plenty of these large reptiles—over 250,000 to be exact. Alligators, not unlike other animals, can cause serious problems, especially because of their size, powerful jaws, and numerous teeth. Refugio County-based Game Warden Raul “Pinky” Gonzales found out the hard way. No wonder Texas has a well-regulated alligator hunting season in place for these prehistoric lizards.

Game Warden Gonzales is recovering this week from injuries suffered in a struggle with an 8-foot, 9-inch alligator. The incident began on Friday, April 2, when Gonzales responded to a call about an alligator on FM 136 just south of Woodsboro. He arrived to find the big ‘gator in the middle of the road. Attempting to relocate the animal, the warden got on top of it and began to tape its mouth. Although he has dealt with alligators for more than two decades and has never been injured, this time was different. The alligator swung its head and struck Gonzales squarely in the face, causing a severe cut to his upper lip, breaking a tooth, loosening another, and damaging his eyeglasses. Continue reading

Ocelot Hit By Car in Palo Pinto, Texas

Ocelot found road-killed in Palo Pinto County

Ocelots are endangered animals in the United States, found primarily in South Texas. It’s always a big deal when these rare animals are spotted, particularly when that sighting occurs outside of their normal range, and especially when that ocelot is found hit by a car. That’s exactly what happened within the last week just outside of Palo Pinto, Texas, way up in North Texas!

The above photo shows a male ocelot that was found dead on Highway 180 just East of Palo Pinto. And although the cat may look strange to many of you, it’s even more odd that this animal was found this far north. Has this animal moved up from South Texas, where residents hold an annual Ocelot Festival, or was it simply an escaped or dumped animal from someone that illegally possessed it? The jury is still out. Continue reading

Bobcat Facts and Pictures

Bobcat picture Bobcat Photo

Bobcat Description – The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a medium-sized, reddish brown, yellow-tan, or grayish cat with faint dark spots whose color varies greatly with the habitat in which it occupies. Its ears usually have small tufts at the tips, and its fur is longer on the sides of its head than on the rest of its body. Bobcats have a short tail (hence the name, as in bobbed-tail), long legs, and large feet. The bobcat is highly adaptable and inhabits almost every wooded or brushed area throughout the United States.

Bobcat Facts and Stats

Bobcat Diet – Bobcats primarily hunt rabbits and rodents, but they are also known to eat birds, bats and the occasional deer fawn or young pig. Bobcats can sometimes cause problems around rural and suburban farms, where they will kill and consume small goats, sheep, chickens, and turkeys.

Bobcat Behavior – Bobcat habitat varies greatly from forests to semi-deserts and brush land to mountain-dominated areas. A habitat dense with vegetation and lots of mice and rabbits is perfect for this medium-sized cat. Bobcat are excellent hunters, stalking prey with stealth and patience, then capturing their meals in the blink of an eye

Bobcat are territorial animals and usually live solitary lives. In fact, females will never share a territory with each other. Male territories, on the other hand, tend to overlap. These territories are established with scent markings and territory sizes are extremely varied based on habitat and terrain. Bobcat home range sizes usually range from 15 to 30 square miles for males and about 5 square miles for females.

Bobcat Reproduction – Bobcats typically mate during the winter each year and kittens are usually born in early spring. Although this time of year is when most bobcat mating takes place, they can mate throughout the year. Bobcat gestation ranges from 50 to 60 days in length and litter sizes can be from 1 to 6 kittens. The kittens will begin eating solid food at around 2 months of age. When they are between 8 and 11 months, the mother will push the kittens out of her territory.

Bobcat kitten

Each bobcat may have several dens, one main den and several auxiliary dens, within its home range and territory. A bobcat’s main den is typically a cave or rock shelter, but can be a hollow log, fallen tree, or some other protected place in level terrain. Bobcat will also have shelter dens located in less-visited portions of their home range. These auxiliary dens are often brush piles, rock ledges or stumps.

More on Bobcats:

“The reclusive bobcat is active largely at night, although they frequently leave cover and begin hunting long before sundown. In hilly country, their presence can often be detected by their habit of dropping their feces on large rocks on promontories or ridges. Also, like the mountain lion, the males make scrapes–small piles of leaves, sticks, and so forth on which they urinate–along their travel routes, but these scrapes are smaller. Mock scrapes can be used against these animals for persons interested in trapping bobcat.

They den in crevices in canyon walls, in boulder piles, or in thickets. The dens can be readily recognized by the strong odor emanating from them. An expert at climbing trees, bobcats seek refuge in them when available.”