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Living on the edge: spatial response of coyotes (Canis latrans) to wolves (Canis lupus) in the subarctic. Klauder K, Borg B, Prugh L. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 2021 Jan
Understanding how mesopredators manage the risks associated with apex predators is key to explaining impacts of apex predators on mesopredator populations and patterns of mesopredator space use. Here we examine the spatial response of coyotes (Canis latrans Say, 1823) to risk posed by wolves (Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758) using data from sympatric individuals fitted with GPS collars in subarctic Alaska, near the northern range limit for coyotes. We show that coyotes do not universally avoid wolves, but instead demonstrate season-specific responses to both wolf proximity and long-term use of the landscape by wolves. Specifically, coyotes switched from avoiding wolves in summer to preferring areas with wolves in winter, and this selection was consistent across short and longer-term temporal scales. In the summer, coyotes responded less strongly to risk of wolves when in open areas than when in closed vegetation. We also demonstrate that coyotes maintain extremely large territories averaging 291 km2, and experience low annual survival (0.50) with large carnivores being the largest source of mortality. This combination of attraction and avoidance predicated on season and landcover suggests that mesopredators use complex behavioral strategies to mediate the effects of apex predators.