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Ecology of a versatile canid in the Neotropics: gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) in Belize, Central America

Harmsen, Bart J., Sanchez, Emma, Figueroa, Omar A., Gutierrez, Said M., Doncaster, C. Patrick, Foster, Rebecca J.
Mammal research 2019 v.64 no.3 pp. 319-332
Neotropics, Urocyon cinereoargenteus, anthropogenic activities, cameras, deciduous forests, foxes, geographical distribution, habitats, home range, landscapes, telemetry, temperate zones, tourists, Belize
Gray foxes are successful habitat generalists within the temperate zone of their geographic range, exploiting a wide variety of habitats, including human-dominated landscapes. However, little is known of their use of tropical habitats or their ability to exploit landscapes with human activity. Here, we report the first study to explore the ecology and behavior of gray foxes within the tropics. Extensive camera-trap data (23,598 trap nights) across two different landscapes in Belize, combined with telemetry data on three collared individuals, showed a preference for more open and drier habitats over tropical moist broadleaf forest which is the dominant habitat type in the region. Although foxes did not use the interior of the broadleaf forests, they were detected at the edges and readily exploited areas that had been converted to support human activities (e.g., tourist centers). Home ranges of collared individuals were relatively large (3–7 km²) compared to those of temperate gray foxes, suggesting that they occupy a less productive landscape than those studied further north. This study found that although tropical gray foxes readily exploited human-altered landscapes, just as they do in the temperate zone, they are not the habitat generalists as previously thought and seem unable to fully exploit tropical moist broadleaf forest, the regions’ most dominant and productive habitat type.