Coyotes: Some Fish With That Rabbit?

Read on if you like coyotes, Monterey Bay, scavengers, fish, beach

Jan. 6, 2013—Researchers at UCSC have found that coyotes in the Monterey Bay area seem to be incorporating seafood into their diets—something their ancestors rarely did.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that by analyzing fecal samples of coyotes in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, the scientists in UCSC biologist Paul Koch's lab were able to detect telltale isotopes, or forms, of nitrogen commonly found in marine animals. Comparing the ratio of this nitrogen isotope to certain carbon isotopes yielded the conclusion: coyotes are even less picky than we thought. They'll even dine on elephant seal carcass.

Researchers believe this is a new behavior because the fossil record, when subjected to the same isotope ratio analysis, suggests that very few ancient coyotes left the hills for the beach when it came time to dine. The effects of such an evolutionary shift remain a mystery, but University of New Mexico ecologist Seth Newsome told the Sentinel, "Potentially, just having marine foods available could increase the number of coyotes in the area."