Effects of Coyote Population Reduction on Swift Fox Demographics in Southeastern Colorado

Authors

  • SEIJA M. KARKI,

    1. Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA
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  • ERIC M. GESE,

    1. United States Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA
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  • MEAD L. KLAVETTER

    1. Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA
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    • Directorate of Environmental Compliance and Management, United States Army Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, 36086 Highway 350, Model, CO 81059, USA


Abstract

ABSTRACT  The distribution and abundance of swift foxes (Vulpes velox) has declined from historic levels. Causes for the decline include habitat loss and fragmentation, incidental poisoning, changing land use practices, trapping, and predation by other carnivores. Coyotes (Canis latrans) overlap the geographical distribution of swift foxes, compete for similar resources, and are a significant source of mortality amongst many swift fox populations. Current swift fox conservation and management plans to bolster declining or recovering fox populations may include coyote population reduction to decrease predation. However, the role of coyote predation in swift fox population dynamics is not well-understood. To better understand the interactions of swift foxes and coyotes, we compared swift fox population demographics (survival rates, dispersal rates, reproduction, density) between areas with and without coyote population reduction. On the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, Colorado, USA, we monitored 141 swift foxes for 65,226 radio-days from 15 December 1998 to 14 December 2000 with 18,035 total telemetry locations collected. Juvenile swift fox survival rate was increased and survival was temporarily prolonged in the coyote removal area. Adult fox survival patterns were also altered by coyote removal, but only following late-summer coyote removals and, again, only temporarily. Coyote predation remained the main cause of juvenile and adult fox mortality in both areas. The increase in juvenile fox survival in the coyote removal area resulted in a compensatory increase in the juvenile dispersal rate and an earlier pulse in dispersal movements. Adult fox dispersal rate was more consistent throughout the year in the coyote removal area. Coyote removal did not influence the reproductive parameters of the swift foxes. Even though juvenile survival increased, swift fox density remained similar between the areas due to the compensatory dispersal rate among juvenile foxes. We concluded that the swift fox population in the area was saturated. Although coyote predation appeared additive in the juvenile cohort, it was compensatory with dispersal.

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