More Observations on Coyote-Cat Interactions: What Can We Learn?

This post relates to the earlier post “Observations of Coyote Predation on Cats.”  Although it may sound like I’m criticizing Grubbs and Krausman’s (2009) study, I’m not saying that we should disregard the results entirely.  As I said earlier, this is a fascinating research study and the only published study on observations of coyote-cat interactions.  I just think that it should be viewed in the context of observations of coyote-cat behavior in a coyote pack that may specialize in killing cats.  Some of the patterns of behavior observed may be useful when gauging the relative risk of lost or outdoor cats to coyote predation.  For example, Grubbs and Krausman (2009) found that 69% of interactions and 68% of kills occurred during the pup rearing season (May-August).  These results could be due to the increased pressure on the adult coyotes to feed a fast growing litter of hungry pups.  Only 8% of interactions and 5% of kills took place during the breeding season (Jan-Feb).  I’m curious whether the same trends would be observed in an area of the country that experiences harsher winters than Arizona.  They also found that most interactions (86%) and kills (84%) took place between sunrise and sunset.  Jon Way et al. (2004) found that coyotes in suburban Massachusetts showed a preference to be active mostly during dawn, dusk, and especially at night, but that breeding females were active at all hours during the time they were nursing pups (April-June).  In general, this supports the theory that outdoor-access cats that initially go missing during the day are less likely to be the victim of a coyote attack.

Some other results of Grubbs and Krausman’s (2009) study raise more questions than answers.  For example, they found that 18 of 19 killed cats were at least partially consumed.  I would really like to know whether the coyotes consumed the cats at the location of the kill or whether they carried them to a different location or to the den.  This would be useful to help determine the likelihood of finding the remains of a coyote-killed cat within the cat’s home range?  Way et al. (2001) studied characteristics of coyote dens in suburban Massachusetts and found that den sites were devoid of prey remains and adult coyote scat.  However, in late-May to mid-June the pups were moved from the den to a series of rendezvous sites (i.e. a safe location where pups are left while most of the adults are away hunting), and Way et al. (2001) does not mention whether prey remains were present at these sites.

Grubbs and Krausman (2009) also found that in 28% of coyote-cat interactions, the coyote chased the cat.  This was the second most common coyote-cat interaction followed by 17% of cats standing their ground or chasing coyotes.  A surprising number of lost outdoor-access cats are found within a mile or two from where they originally went missing and sometimes even years after they went missing (see Lost Cats Found blog for examples).  The general assumption is that most of these cats were displaced from their familiar home range and were then unable to find their way home.  Causes of displacement might be territorial aggression from another cat or being chased by a dog or wild animal.  I would be really curious to find out if they measured how far the cats ran and the behavior of the cat after the chase ended.

Video of a cat fending off two coyotes and eventually escaping up a tree.  (If your cat is missing, I wouldn’t suggest watching this.  It’s a close call for the brave cat.)

Literature Cited

Grubbs, Shannon E. and Paul R. Krausman.  2009.  Observations of Coyote – Cat Interactions.  Journal of Wildlife Management 73(5): 683-685.

Way, Jonathan G., Issac M. Ortega, and Eric G. Strauss.  2004.  Movement and Activity Patterns of Eastern Coyotes in a Coastal, Suburban  Environment.  Northeastern Naturalist 11(3): 237-254.

Way, Jonathan G., Peter J. Auger, Issac M. Ortega, and Eric G. Strauss.  2001.  Eastern Coyote Denning Behavior in an Anthropogenic Environment.  Northeast Wildlife 56: 18-30.

For anyone who is interested, many of Jonathan Way’s research papers are available from the publications page of his website: Eastern Coyote Research.

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