Individual variation in anthropogenic resource use in an urban carnivore

Abstract

With increasing urbanization, some animals are adapting to human-dominated systems, offering unique opportunities to study individual adaptation to novel environments. One hypothesis for why some wildlife succeed in urban areas is that they are subsidized with anthropogenic food. Here, we combine individual-level movement patterns with diet composition based on stable isotope analysis to assess the degree to which a rapidly growing population of coyotes (Canis latrans) in Chicago consumes anthropogenic resources. We used telemetry to classify coyotes into three groups based on social class and home range composition: (1) residents with home ranges in urban nature preserves; (2) residents with home ranges that had a high proportion of urban land; and (3) transients that had relatively large home ranges and variable use of urban land. We found that natural and anthropogenic resources in this system can be reliably partitioned with carbon isotopes. Mixing models revealed that resident coyotes associated with most urban nature preserves consumed trace to minimal amounts of anthropogenic resources, while coyotes that live in the urban matrix consume moderate (30–50 %) to high (>50 %) proportions of anthropogenic resources. Lastly, we found evidence of prey switching between natural and anthropogenic resources and a high degree of inter-individual variation in diet among coyotes. In contrast to the expectation that urban adaptation may dampen ecological variation, our results suggest individuality in movement and diet exemplifies the successful establishment of coyotes in urban Chicago. Our study also suggests that direct anthropogenic food subsidization is not a prerequisite for successful adaptation to urban environments.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Luke Tyrrell, Kelli Blomberg, Ryan Jones, and Deborah Boro for laboratory assistance and Anne Jakle for constructive reviews. Funding was provided by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, and the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. We especially thank Chris Anchor and Donna Alexander for their support, and the many technicians involved in field and laboratory work.

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Correspondence to Seth D. Newsome.

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Communicated by Craig A. Layman.

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Newsome, S.D., Garbe, H.M., Wilson, E.C. et al. Individual variation in anthropogenic resource use in an urban carnivore. Oecologia 178, 115–128 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-3205-2

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Keywords

  • Urban ecology
  • Anthropogenic subsidies
  • Coyotes
  • Stable isotopes