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The landscape of fear: habitat use by a predator (Canis latrans) and its main prey (Lepus californicus and Sylvilagus audubonii)

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We evaluated the degree of mutual exclusivity of distributions of coyotes (Canis latrans Say, 1823) and their main prey (two lagomorph species: the black-tailed jackrabbit, Lepus californicus Gray, 1837, and the desert cottontail rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii (Baird, 1858)) within the landscape by testing two models. The first assumes that prey seek high resource patches and, subsequently, predators seek prey within these patches, and predicts a high degree of overlap in patch use by both. The second model assumes that predator and prey balance not only food resources but reciprocal levels of predation risk and predation success in making decisions on whether or not to use a patch. This model predicts discordance in patch use between predator and prey. We used a combination of GPS-telemetry and camera-trapping data to assess habitat use patterns of predator and prey. Results from this study support the second model regarding spatial use of the landscape by a predator and its prey. Where the use of the landscape by predators and prey seem to be mediated by environmental constraints, both will adjust their predatory or antipredatory strategies based on these constraints. This results in a partial spatial separation of predator and prey across the landscape, providing patches of relative safety for prey but sufficient areas of overlap for predators to be successful.

Keywords: black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus); coyote (Canis latrans); desert; desert cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii); désert; ecology; lapin d’Audubon (Sylvilagus audubonii); lièvre californien (Lepus californicus); predation; prédation; écologie

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Instituto de Ecología, A.C. Posgrado, Km. 2.5 carretera antigua a Coatepec 351, Congregación El Haya 91070, Xalapa, Veracruz, México. 2: Instituto de Ecología, A.C. Centro Regional Durango, Boulevard del Guadiana 123, Los Remedios 34100, Victoria de Durango, Durango, México. 3: Universidad Veracruzana, Facultad de Estadística e Informática LINAE, Avenida Xalapa c/esq A. Camacho s/n. 91000, Xalapa, Veracruz, México.

Publication date: 2012-06-10

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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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