Date of Award:

2002

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Fisheries and Wildlife

Advisor/Chair:

John A. Bissonette

Abstract

Vigilance behavior can aid in the detection of predators and may also play a role in observation of conspecifics, in food acquisition, and in the prevention of kleptoparasitism. However, in most occasions, vigilance is most important as an antipredator function. Generally, factors that increase the risk of predation also increase the amount of vigilance. We examined whether the reintroduction of the large predator, the wolf, in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) would influence coyote vigilance and foraging ecology. From December 1997 to July 2000, we collected 1743 h of coyote activity budgets. Coyote home ranges occurred within wolf territories (termed high-use or nonbuffer zone areas) and also between them in buffer zones. In high wolf use areas as well as when wolves were present, coyotes fed on carcasses much more; however, they increased the amount of vigilance and decreased rest to prevent predation. Wolf kills may provide a quick source of food and be energetically advantageous to coyotes; however, costs include increased vigilance, decreased rest, and a higher predation risk. Vigilance and avoidance behavioral responses to the reintroduction of large predators may ultimately be more common outcomes than actual killing by competing carnivores of prey. Keystone carnivore reintroductions have a variety of cascading effects throughout the ecosystem and can be driven by both numeric responses (trophic cascades) and behavioral responses ("behavioral cascades"). Behavioral cascades resulting from increased vigilance or spatial changes may lead ultimately to numeric changes and trophic cascades.

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