Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

2-16-2015

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2014

Month Degree Awarded

September

Advisor Name

Todd

Advisor Middle Initial

K.

Advisor Last Name

Fuller

Co-advisor Name

Stephen

Co-advisor Last Name

DeStefano

Third Advisor Name

John

Third Advisor Last Name

Organ

Fourth Advisor Name

Charles

Fourth Advisor Last Name

Schweik

Abstract

With the ever-increasing human population, more people reside in urban areas than ever before; this is having marked effects on the landscape and in turn, wildlife. This study uses automatically triggered wildlife cameras to assess the distribution of three carnivore species (coyotes, Canis latrans; red foxes, Vulpes vulpes; and gray foxes, Urocyon cinereoargenteus) around the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts in relation to a gradient of human development. Cameras were placed at 141 locations within the 320-km2 study area over the course of three field seasons (3,052 trap nights). Relative abundances for fourteen other species and site characteristics (e.g., elevation, forest cover type, distance to urban edge) for each camera location were determined to develop a generalized linear model for the distribution of each species across the study area. Coyote distribution was most affected by the relative abundances of their prey species and not by landscape characteristics or sympatric carnivore species. Coyotes are the top predator in the area and therefore their distribution is correlated with the relative abundances of their prey species, unlike other parts of their range where they are controlled by larger carnivores. Red and gray foxes both had negative relationships with the relative abundance of coyotes as coyotes have been shown to adversely impact fox distributions and access to resources. Both red and gray foxes were also negatively or uncorrelated with increased levels of urbanization, which is both supported and refuted by published literature and is likely system specific.

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