Charles D. Lovell

Title of study - Bobcat, coyote, and gray fox micro-habitat use and interspecies relationships in a managed forest in central Mississippi Date of thesis - May 1996

An increase in predation on game species (e.g., wild turkey) and livestock has generated concern for control of predators in particular areas. Currently practiced control methods are generally not accepted by the general public. Timber management practices and manipulation of stands are being considered as possible approaches for predator management.

Prey abundance, diet, home range size and overlap, and macro- and micro-habitat use of 21 bobcats, 12 coyotes, and 4 gray foxes were examined on Tallahala Wildlife Management Area (TWMA) in central Mississippi from 1993-95.

Deer, rabbits, and cottonrats were the most consumed prey items found in bobcat and coyote diets on TWMA. Coyotes had more vegetation and fruit in their diets compared to bobcats, whereas bobcats consumed more mice than did coyotes.

Home range sizes differed among the 3 predator species. Female coyote 95% convex polygon home ranges (2865 ha) were significantly larger (P <0.001) than all sex/species groups. No differences (P > 0.05) were found among male bobcats (1515 ha), male coyotes (1124 ha), female bobcats (901 ha), female gray foxes (395 ha), or male gray foxes (297 ha) for 95% convex polygon home ranges. Home range sizes of bobcats, coyotes, and gray foxes on TWMA were similar to sizes found in other studies. Macro-habitat use also differed among the 3 predator species. Female bobcats preferred pine regeneration stands and male bobcats preferred pine regeneration and hardwood sawtimber stands within home ranges on TWMA. Coyotes were not as habitat selective as bobcats, as a variety of stands were used within home ranges. No differences were found between male and female gray fox macro-habitat use, both had the highest use of pine sawtimber stands within home ranges. Pine sawtimber was used less than available within home ranges by bobcats and coyotes.

Micro-habitat use among bobcats, coyotes, and gray foxes found no differences relative to one another, but may vary from random micro-habitat variables when predators are pooled. Cross- validation was unable to differentiate among bobcat, coyote, and gray fox variables; however, when pooled, predators used different micro-habitats than those occurring randomly.

Locations and home range sizes of predators on TWMA appear to be a function of prey availability. Predators were found in habitats where prey densities were highest. It is hypothesized that gray foxes may have been excluded from "better" habitat by bobcats and/or coyotes.