Estimating densities for sympatric kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis) and coyotes (Canis latrans) using noninvasive genetic sampling

Robert C. Lonsinger, P. M. Lukacs, E. M. Gese, R. N. Knight, L. P. Waits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Kit fox (Vulpes macrotis Merriam, 1888) populations in the Great Basin Desert have declined and are of increasing concern for managers. Increasing coyote (Canis latrans Say, 1823) abundance and subsequent intraguild interactions may be one cause for this decline. Concurrent monitoring of carnivores is challenging and therefore rarely conducted. One possible solution for monitoring elusive carnivores is using noninvasive genetic sampling. We used noninvasive genetic sampling to collect fecal DNA from kit foxes and coyotes and estimate their densities from 2013–2014 in Utah, USA. We identified individuals based on microsatellite genotypes and estimated density with multisession spatially explicit capture–recapture models. Mean kit fox density was 0.02 foxes·km−2, while coyote densities were up to four times greater (0.07–0.08 coyotes·km−2). Kit fox densities were significantly lower than densities in the 1950s but were comparable with estimates from the late 1990s, suggesting that populations may be stabilizing after a precipitous decline. Our kit fox density estimates were among the lowest documented for the species. Our coyote density estimate was the first reported in our region and revealed that despite seemingly high abundance, densities are low compared with other regions. Our results suggested that kit foxes may be able to coexist with coyotes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1080-1089
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2018


  • Canis latrans
  • Coyote
  • Density
  • Kit fox
  • Noninvasive genetic sampling
  • Recapture
  • Spatial capture
  • Vulpes macrotis


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