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Contender pressure versus resource dispersion as predictors of territory size of coyotes (Canis latrans)

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Many studies have proposed resource dispersion as the main determinant of territory size in coyotes (Canis latrans Say, 1823), but few have considered contender pressure as an alternative hypothesis. We tested for differences in rates of intra-territorial visitation, movement, and extra-territorial excursions between two populations of coyotes with large differences in territory sizes. We collected fine-scale (15 min) movement data of coyotes in southeastern Texas and south-central Idaho. Both populations were active for similar lengths of each day, but coyotes in Idaho had territories 10× larger, moved 2× faster, traveled 2× farther daily, and made extra-territorial excursions 3× less. Even with increased movement rates, coyotes in Idaho traversed territories slower than coyotes in Texas as predicted by the contender pressure hypothesis. We propose that in regions with high resource abundance, territory size of coyotes is determined by contender pressure and an inability to defend larger areas. Conversely, in low-resource areas, territory sizes are determined more by prey abundance and dispersion because intrusion rates are reduced given the lower density of conspecifics.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/z11-065

Affiliations: 1: Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322, USA. 2: US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wildlife Services (WS), National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC), Logan, UT 84322, USA.

Publication date: October 27, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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