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Human presence drives bobcat interactions among the U.S. carnivore guild

Abstract

Mammalian carnivores are elusive and enigmatic species that often play keystone roles in ecosystems through direct and indirect effects. Growing evidence shows that human activity can impact carnivore behavior and community structure by altering predator-prey interactions, shifting diel activity patterns, and altering wildlife movement. Our goal was to investigate the ecological role of bobcats (Lynx rufus) across carnivore communities in the continental USA by quantifying variation in spatiotemporal patterns and determining what environmental and human factors influenced carnivore community interactions. Using camera trap data from the inaugural nationwide Snapshot USA project dataset collected from September – October 2019, we constructed diel activity density curves, applied multispecies occupancy models, and calculated attraction-avoidance ratios. Our results suggest that bobcats display the greatest flexibility in their diel activity among the suite of carnivores sampled. Further, bobcats respond differentially at large spatial scales relative to the presence of dominant or subordinate carnivores, with fluctuating impacts mediated by human and environmental factors. Bobcats’ co-occurrence with dominant carnivores (i.e., wolves Canis sp., pumas Puma concolor) was influenced primarily by human-related factors, whereas co-occurrence with subordinate carnivores (i.e., foxes) was more influenced by environmental factors (i.e., precipitation, gross primary production [GPP]). Bobcats appear to interpret humans as the apex predator on the landscape regardless of the presence of dominant or subordinate species. Understanding the influence of humans as “super predators’’, as well as the importance of environmental factors that impact intraguild carnivore interactions across the USA is critical for establishing successful management practices to promote functioning communities.

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Data Availability

All data from this manuscript has been archived as part of Snapshot USA 2019 available at https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.3353.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge Snapshot 2019, which was a collaborative effort among scientists across the U.S.A. who contributed to the inaugural wildlife camera-trap survey producing a database accessible to the public. This project was financially supported by the Biology Department at Northern Michigan University. TH was supported by the NMU Biology Development Fund, the Spooner Student Research Fund, an Excellence in Education Grant, and a Student Technology Innovation Award.

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Contributions

TH and DJRL conceived the idea and secured funding; All contributors collected data for Snapshot USA; TH led manuscript writing with technical assistance from MVC and DJRL. MLA and CN assisted with analysis of temporal activity. AMJ assisted with analysis of spatiotemporal avoidance. FI assisted with analysis of single and multispecies occupancy modeling. All authors reviewed and provided constructive feedback on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tru Hubbard.

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The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest/no competing interests.

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Communicated by Adeline Loyau.

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Hubbard, T., Cove, M.V., Green, A.M. et al. Human presence drives bobcat interactions among the U.S. carnivore guild. Biodivers Conserv (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02445-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02445-2

Keywords

  • Apex predator
  • Bobcat
  • carnivore
  • Intraguild interactions
  • Occupancy modeling
  • Spatiotemporal activity