Influence of Population Reduction on Predator Home Range Size and Spatial Overlap

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The Journal of Wildlife Management





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The increasing populations of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), raccoons (Procyon lotor), and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) in the Intermountain West have contributed to low waterfowl recruitment in recent decades. This effect prompted the need for predator removal at many waterfowl refuges, such as the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (BRMBR) in the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. Our study examined the effects of the removal of predatory mammals at the BRMBR on the home range size and spatial overlap of the remaining populations of red foxes, raccoons, and striped skunks. The removal of predators through traps, snares, and night-shooting created a lower predator population during the predators' rearing and dispersal seasons. Predator removal did not result in a change of home range size for red foxes, raccoons, or striped skunks. In all species, home ranges were of similar size during the rearing and dispersal seasons and there were no differences among sexes. After predator removal, the proportion of a home range that overlapped with that of another conspecific decreased in foxes but increased in raccoons. However, predator removal did not change the proportion of inter-specific home range overlap between foxes and raccoons. These findings indicate that home range sizes of these mammalian predators were not constrained by their population densities prior to predator management. In this situation, predator control may be only temporarily successful in reducing predator populations. Managers may achieve more permanent reduction in predator population by decreasing food and shelter resources, thereby reducing the carrying capacity of the landscape.

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