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Isotopic investigation of niche partitioning among native carnivores and the non-native coyote (Canis latrans)

Warsen, Scott A., Frair, Jacqueline L., Teece, Mark A.
Isotopes in environmental and health studies 2014 v.50 no.3 pp. 414-424
Canis latrans, Lynx rufus, Urocyon cinereoargenteus, Vulpes vulpes, anthropogenic activities, carbon, carnivores, corn, dietary protein, foxes, nitrogen, stable isotopes, sympatry, United States
We employed stable carbon (δ ¹³C) and nitrogen (δ ¹⁵N) isotopes within a hypothetico-deductive framework to explore potential resource partitioning among terrestrial mammalian carnivores. Isotope values were acquired using guard hair samples from bobcat (Lynx rufus), coyote (Canis latrans), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in the Adirondack Park, NY, USA. Enrichment along the δ ¹³C axis was expected to reflect the use of human sources of food (reflecting a corn subsidy), and by extension tolerance for human-modified environments, whereas enrichment along the δ ¹⁵N axis was expected to reflect a higher level of carnivory (i.e. amount of animal-based protein in the diet) – two mechanisms by which these now sympatric species may achieve a dynamic coexistence. Although bobcats were the only obligate carnivore, all four species shared a similar δ ¹⁵N space. In contrast, bobcat had a lower and distinct δ ¹³C signature compared to foxes, consistent with the a priori expectation of bobcats being the species least tolerant of human activities. Isotope signatures for coyotes, which colonized the region in the 1920s, overlapped all three native carnivores, bobcats the least, gray fox the most, indicating their potential competitive influence on this suite of native carnivores.