What's In That Scat: An Analysis of Canada Lynx Diet
Full Title: What's In That Scat: An Analysis of Canada Lynx Diet and Distribution in the North Cascades Ecosystem
This research provides critical information on the diet and distribution of the elusive North Cascades lynx population. Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) are considered threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and are the focus of protection efforts by the state of Washington as a result of climate change, heightened competition, and human interference. I analyzed the diet and distribution of both lynx and coyote (Canis latrans) in the North Cascades to determine whether there was an overlap of prey and habitat that could constrain lynx restoration. During the summer of 2020, the hiking trails in the North Cascades National Park in Washington state were surveyed by the Cascades Carnivore Project (CCP) to collect the scats of rare carnivores. 428 scats were sent to the Quantitative Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Laboratory at OSU to be DNA analyzed for predator and prey species. Of these, 276 were Canada lynx; 97 were coyote, a potential prey and habitat competitor for lynx. I constructed the diet of lynx and coyote and compared the proportional representation of prey species using the chi squared test of independence. To analyze lynx distribution, I created visual representation of scat collection elevations and cover-types and compared the elevations of lynx and coyote scats using the variance test and 2-sample T-test. The data suggest that the diet of lynx in Washington is specialized, consisting of 78% snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), similar to diets described for lynx populations in other regions. In contrast, the diets of the coyotes were more general, but the two predators possess a 14-species overlap in diet. Lynx also specialize by using a smaller range of elevations (4000-8000 ft) than the range of the coyote which overlapped and extended wider and more variable elevations (2000-9000 ft) that included areas with less tree cover. Coyote overlap of lynx diet and habitat, compounded by high coyote abundance, suggest coyotes may be a limiting factor in lynx restoration.
Canada lynx, coyote, scat analysis, competition, diet analysis
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