U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

July 1999


Published in Can. J. Zool. 77: 1645-1656 (1999). © 1999 NRC Canada. Permission to use.


In its current distribution and abundance, the swift fox (Vulpes velox) has been significantly reduced from its historic range. A possible cause is competition with, and predation by, coyotes (Canis latrans). We investigated the level of spatial, temporal, and dietary resource use overlap between swift foxes and coyotes at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. We captured and radio-tracked 73 foxes and 24 coyotes from April 1997 to August 1998. We collected 10 832 and 5350 locations of foxes and coyotes, respectively. Overall, home-range sizes of foxes and coyotes were 7.6 ± 0.5 (mean ± SE) and 19.8 ± 1.9 km2, respectively. A high degree of interspecies spatial overlap was apparent, with fox home ranges being overlapped by coyote home ranges by as much as 100% and coyote sign (tracks and scats) being evident in all swift fox home ranges. There was no evidence of temporal avoidance of coyotes in fox movement patterns. Coyotes traveled significantly farther than foxes during diurnal hours; foxes spent the majority of diurnal hours in or on top of dens. Coyotes and foxes showed a high index of overlap for dietary resources, although some dietary partitioning was apparent. Swift foxes specialized in small prey, such as insects and rodents, while coyotes used greater proportions of large prey, such as lagomorphs and ungulates. Interference competition was evident, with 48% (12125) of fox mortalities identified as confirmed or probable coyote-caused deaths. In each case, death occurred outside either the fox's home range or the 85% isopleth of that range, indicating that coyotes are more likely to attack a fox successfully when it is a substantial distance from a den. We propose that swift foxes are able to coexist with coyotes, owing to year-round den use and a degree of dietary partitioning.