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


Date of this Version



Published in Ecology, 88(2), 2007, pp. 334–346.


Trophic level interactions between predators create complex relationships such as intraguild predation. Theoretical research has predicted two possible paths to stability in intraguild systems: intermediate predators either out compete higher-order predators for shared resources or select habitat based on security. The effects of intraguild predation on intermediate mammalian predators such as swift foxes (Vulpes velox) are not well understood. We examined the relationships between swift foxes and both their predators and prey, as well the effect of vegetation structure on swift fox–coyote (Canis latrans) interactions, between August 2001 and August 2004. In a natural experiment created by the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado, USA, we documented swift fox survival and density in a variety of landscapes and compared these parameters in relation to prey availability, coyote abundance, and vegetation structure. Swift fox density varied significantly between study sites, while survival did not. Coyote abundance was positively related to the basal prey species and vegetation structure, while swift fox density was negatively related to coyote abundance, basal prey species, and vegetation structure. Our results support the prediction that, under intraguild predation in terrestrial systems, top predator distribution matches resource availability (resource match), while intermediate predator distribution inversely matches predation risk (safety match). While predation by coyotes may be the specific cause of swift fox mortality in this system, the more general mechanism appears to be exposure to predation moderated by shrub density.