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


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Mammalogy, 91(2):490–499, 2010.


Investigations into mechanisms of resource partitioning are particularly suited to systems where nascent interactive behaviors are observable. Wolf (Canis lupus) recolonization of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem provided such a system, and we were able to identify behaviors influencing the partitioning of resources by coyotes (Canis latrans) and wolves. We observed coyote–wolf interactions immediately after wolf recolonization, when reemergent behaviors mediating the outcome of competitive interactions were detectable and mechanisms of spatial avoidance were identifiable. Although coyotes used the same space as wolves, they likely minimized risk of encounter by making adaptive changes in resource selection based on perception of wolf activity and potential scavenging opportunities. When exploiting carrion subsidies (i.e., wolf-killed ungulates), coyotes relied on social behaviors (i.e., numerical advantage in concert with heightened aggression) to mitigate escalating risk from wolves and increase resource-holding potential. By adapting behaviors to fluctuating risk, coyotes might reduce the amplitude of competitive asymmetries. We concluded coyotes do not perceive wolves as a threat requiring generalized spatial avoidance. Rather, the threat of aggressive interactions with wolves is spatially discrete and primarily contained to areas adjacent to carrion resources.