Date of this Version
Current Zoology, 2017, 63(2), 121–129 doi: 10.1093/cz/zow071.
Anthropogenic manipulation of finite resources on the landscape to benefit individual species or communities is commonly employed by conservation and management agencies. One such action in arid regions is the construction and maintenance of water developments (i.e., wildlife guzzlers) adding free water on the landscape to buttress local populations, influence animal movements, or affect distributions of certain species of interest. Despite their prevalence, the utility of wildlife guzzlers remains largely untested. We employed a before–after control-impact (BACI) design over a 4-year period on the US Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, USA, to determine whether water availability at wildlife guzzlers influenced relative abundance of black-tailed jackrabbits Lepus californicus and relative use of areas near that resource by coyotes Canis latrans, and whether coyote visitations to guzzlers would decrease following elimination of water. Eliminating water availability at guzzlers did not influence jackrabbit relative abundance. Coyote relative use was impacted by water availability, with elimination of water reducing use in areas associated with our treatment, but not with areas associated with our control. Visitations of radio-collared coyotes to guzzlers declined nearly 3-fold following elimination of water. Our study provides the first evidence of a potential direct effect of water sources on a mammalian carnivore in an arid environment, but the ecological relevance of our finding is debatable. Future investigations aimed at determining water effects on terrestrial mammals could expand on our findings by incorporating manipulations of water availability, obtaining absolute estimates of population parameters and vital rates and incorporating fine-scale spatiotemporal data.