Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Meserve, Peter L.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Biological Sciences


Red fox--Illinois--Effect of habitat modification on; Canidae--Illinois--Behavior; Coyote--Illinois--Effect of habitat modification on; Predatory animals--Illinois--Behavior; Canidae--Illinois--Effect of habitat modification on


Predators may forage in a variety of ways, such as specializing on particular prey species, switching to alternative prey, or by varying spatial activity patterns. The latter two modes can occur in a heterogeneous landscape The effects of fluctuating prey numbers on the activity patterns and diet selection of two terrestrial predators, the coyote (Canis latrans) and red fox ( Vulpes vulpes), were investigated. The study site was located in northern Illinois, at Fermi National accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), and included sampling in seven different habitats of a heterogeneous landscape. Availability of small mammalian prey was assessed by monthly markrecapture sampling conducted along three 200-m transects in each of the seven locations. Availability of squirrels (Sciurus spp ), eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), and Ring-necked Pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) was assessed by monthly visual counts along the same transects. Spatial activity patterns of C. latrans were determined from scent station lines parallel to the small mammal trapping transects. Scats collected along standardized routes were analyzed for number and occurrence of prey items. During 1994, there were significant differences in prey availability over time between the seven locations. Dietary analyses indicated that both red fox and coyote switched between alternative prey, albeit with a strong preference for Microtus. A concurrent study on small mammal population dynamics, conducted in one of the seven habitats, showed experimentally that the preferential selection of voles depressed prey populations. Except for Microtus, overall prey availability did ABSTRACT not affect coyote activity patterns across Fermilab This lack of correlation was due, in part, to habitat selection by coyotes, primarily, the avoidance of wooded areas. Coyotes did, however, respond to abundant patches of Peromyscus, through spatial and temporal alterations in activity patterns.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [67]-80).


ix, 80 pages




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