Effects of Intraguild Predation: Evaluating Resource Competition Between Two Canid Species With Apparent Niche Separation
Date of this Version
Many studies determine which habitat components are important to animals and the extent their use may overlap with competitive species. However, such studies are often undertaken after populations are in decline or under interspecific stress. Since habitat selection is not independent of interspecific stress, quantifying an animal's current landscape use could be misleading if the species distribution is suboptimal. We present an alternative approach by modeling the predicted distributions of two sympatric species on the landscape using dietary preferences and prey distribution. We compared the observed habitat use of kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis) and coyotes (Canis latrans) against their predicted distribution. Data included locations of kit foxes and coyotes, carnivore scat transects, and seasonal prey surveys. Although habitats demonstrated heterogeneity with respect to prey resouces, only coyotes showed habitat use designed to maximize access to prey. In contrast, kit foxes used habitats which did not align closely with prey resources. Instead, habitat use by kit foxes represented spatial and behavioral strategies designed to minimize spatial overlap with coyotes while maximizing access to resources. Data on the distribution of prey, their dietary importance, and the species-specific disparities between predicted and observed habitat distributions supports a mechanism by which kit fox distribution is derived from intense competitive interactions with coyotes.