Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Michael R. Pelton

Committee Members

Boyd L. Dearden, Kenneth S. Johnson, Michael M. King


Introduction: In North America, coyotes (Canis latrans) are the most primitive members of the genus Canis and are believed to have evolved from the ancestral coyote (C. leophagus) (Nowak 1978). During the late Pleistocene period, coyotes were found throughout North America. However, until the 1900's the range of modern coyotes only extended as far east as Wisconsin and south to central Texas (Nowak 1978). It appears that wolf populations were the major factor limiting coyotes in Eastern North America (Nowak 1978, Parker 1988).

Coyotes are adaptable carnivores that have survived human persecution and expanded their range while other carnivores have diminished. The extermination of wolves and disruption of the environment enabled coyotes to expand into Eastern North America. Logging and farming, which have created open pastures, and along with large poultry farms have created ideal habitat for coyotes in the Southeast (Korschgen 1957, Gipson 1974, Hill et al. 1987). Today, coyotes have been reported in all of the continental United States (Gipson 1978).

Concerns about depredation and impacts on game animals by coyotes in the Western United States resulted in numerous long term studies (Bekoff 1982, Linhart and Knowlton 1975, Nellis and Keith 1976, Roughton and sweeny 1982). These same concerns dictate a need for coyote studies in the Southeast where coyotes are a newcomer to a variety of habitats. To date studies of coyote biology and ecology have been conducted in west Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama (Babb and Kennedy 1989, Blanton 1988, Gipson 1978, Hill et al. 1987, Sumner et al. 1984). However, no coyote studies have been conducted in east Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) offered the opportunity to study the colonization of coyotes in east Tennessee where they were relatively free from human persecution. The objectives of this study were to provide base line information about methods for monitoring relative abundance, movement patterns, and habitat use of coyotes in GSMNP. Methods to monitor relative abundance are needed to evaluate trends in coyote abundance for future red wolf (C. rufus) releases in GSMNP. Movement patterns and habitat use by coyotes may provide useful information about how red wolves might respond to the same habitats and reveal similarities or differences in natural history and ecology of the two species.

The body of this thesis was written as two separate papers. These papers were written in style appropriate for the Proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and will be submitted for publication.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."