Humans and urban development mediate the sympatry of competing carnivores

Remington J. Moll, Jonathon D. Cepek, Patrick D. Lorch, Patricia M. Dennis, Terry Robison, Joshua J. Millspaugh, Robert A. Montgomery

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    80 Scopus citations


    Humans can profoundly shape animal community dynamics, but such effects have rarely been evaluated for terrestrial carnivores. Humans affect carnivores in both spatial and temporal dimensions via the chance of human encounter and alteration of the landscape through urban development. We investigated three hypotheses regarding how humans mediate the sympatry of larger, dominant carnivores with their smaller, subordinate counterparts. We tested these hypotheses by examining the spatio-temporal dynamics of a dominant carnivore (coyote Canis latrans) and its subordinate competitor (red fox Vulpes vulpes) across an extensive urban park system. We found that dominant and subordinate carnivores exhibited strong and often opposing spatio-temporal responses to the probability of human encounter and urban development. Spatially, coyotes visited more highly developed sites less frequently while red foxes exhibited an opposing response. Temporally, both species avoided humans via nocturnal activity. Spatio-temporally, red foxes avoided coyotes at all sites and avoided humans at highly developed sites, whereas coyotes showed a positive association with humans at such sites. Our analysis indicates that areas with higher urban development might act as spatial refugia for some subordinate carnivores against interference from larger, dominant carnivores (a “human shield” effect). Our findings also reveal that broad-scale spatial avoidance is likely a crucial component of coexistence between larger, dominant carnivores and humans, whereas finer-scale spatio-temporal avoidance is likely a key feature of coexistence between humans and smaller, subordinate carnivores. Overall, our study underscores the complex and pervasive nature of human influence over the sympatry of competing carnivores inhabiting urban systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)765-778
    Number of pages14
    JournalUrban Ecosystems
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


    • Carnivore
    • Development
    • Interference competition
    • Risk effects
    • Spatio-temporal dynamics
    • Sympatry


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