Friday, 9 February 2018

Urban foxes and coyotes learn to set aside their differences and coexist

Diverging from centuries of established behavioral norms, red fox and coyote have gone against their wild instincts and learned to coexist in the urban environment of Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, according to a recently published study in the journal PLOS One.

Lead author Marcus Mueller, a former graduate student in forest and wildlife ecology, and David Drake, his advisor and a professor in the department, found that over a two-year period, red foxes and coyotes they had radio-tagged were coming into close contact with one another. Some even established home ranges that overlapped.

The findings have implications for wildlife managers working to promote co-existence of species and mitigate conflicts between animals and people in urban settings.

"It gives us a better understanding of the types of habitats foxes and coyotes prefer to use in developed and residential areas," says Mueller, who now owns a wildlife management company in Milwaukee. "This in turn can help us reduce the kinds of problems that can arise when wild animals and people come into contact."

It also shows that these relatives of dogs have been able to carve out a successful niche for themselves in our own yards, parks and alleys, and are finding ways to coexist with each other to take advantage of this new resource-rich real estate.

"We found an instance where a coyote routinely visited a fox den over about a two or three week period," Drake said. "But the fox and kits did not abandon the den, suggesting to us that they didn't feel predation pressure from the coyote."

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