Mammal Research

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 319–332 | Cite as

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

  • Bart J. HarmsenEmail author
  • Emma Sanchez
  • Omar A. Figueroa
  • Said M. Gutierrez
  • C. Patrick Doncaster
  • Rebecca J. Foster
Original Paper


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.


Gray fox Home ranges Diet Activity patterns Habitat selection Neotropics 



We thank M. Brakeman and the many students and volunteers who assisted with data collection. This work is dedicated posthumously to our friend A. Ramos, whose field craft made the project possible. We gratefully acknowledge his vital contributions to the project and the countless hours of fieldwork he devoted to its completion. We thank the editors, Jason Lombardi and one anonymous reviewer for their valuable input, which improved the manuscript substantially.

Funding information

This research was funded by the UK Darwin Initiative 17-012 and Panthera.


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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bart J. Harmsen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Emma Sanchez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Omar A. Figueroa
    • 4
  • Said M. Gutierrez
    • 1
    • 5
  • C. Patrick Doncaster
    • 3
  • Rebecca J. Foster
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Research InstituteUniversity of BelizeBelmopanBelize
  2. 2.PantheraNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.University of Southampton, Biological SciencesSouthamptonUK
  4. 4.Government of BelizeBelmopanBelize
  5. 5.Ya’axché Conservation TrustPunta GordaBelize

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