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Keywords:

  • camera trapping;
  • carnivore co-existence;
  • interspecific competition;
  • jaguar;
  • ocelot;
  • puma

Abstract

To protect and manage an intact neotropical carnivore guild, it is necessary to understand the relative importance of habitat selection and intraguild competition to the ecology of individual species. This study examined habitat use of four carnivores in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, Belize. We calculated photographic trap success (TS) rates for jaguars Panthera onca, pumas Puma concolor, ocelots Leopardus pardalis, grey foxes Urocyon cinereoargenteus, potential prey and humans at 47 remote camera stations spaced along roads and trails within the 139 km2 study site. At each station, we used manual habitat sampling in combination with geographic information systems to estimate habitat characteristics pertaining to vegetation cover. We used negative binomial models to analyse species-specific TS as a response to habitat (including vegetation and landscape variables, prey activity and human activity) and co-predator activity rates. Jaguars [TS=7.56±1.279 (se) captures per 100 trap-nights (TN)] and grey foxes (31.5±6.073 captures per 100 TN) were commonly captured by cameras, while pumas (0.66±0.200 captures per 100 TN) and ocelots (0.55±0.209 captures per 100 TN) were rare. Model selection via Akaike's information criterion (AIC) revealed that models including habitat variables generally performed better than models including co-predator activity. Felid captures were positively associated with small bird TS and with the width or length of surrounding roads, while fox counts showed few habitat associations. Ocelot activity was positively related to jaguar captures, an effect probably explained by their shared preference for areas with more roads. Pumas were negatively related to human activity and jaguars showed a similar, though non-significant, trend, suggesting that these felids may be sensitive to human disturbance even within protected areas. Results suggest that these predators do not spatially partition habitat and that the jaguar could function as an umbrella species for smaller sympatric carnivores.