Carnivore species play a dynamic role throughout their associated ecosystems. They can be vectors of cascading trophic level changes, intraguild competition among other carnivores, and resource availability across complex food webs. Gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) are an elusive carnivore species that utilize forested areas for protection from predators, hunting small prey species, and den sites for raising young. They also serve as an ecologically and economically important furbearer across most of the United States. However, their populations across the Midwest have been declining for the last 30 years. Some potential influences to gray fox and other carnivore species are loss of forested habitat, interference competition from predators, or anthropogenic changes to the landscape.
My method for data collection will employ game cameras placed across southern Illinois to documented occupancy of gray fox, red fox (Vulpes vulpes), bobcat (Lynx rufus), coyote (Canis latrans), raccoon (Procyon lotor), and striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) as well as domesticated cats and dogs. I will be 1.) investigating how habitat components at different spatial scales and predator occupancy throughout forested areas of southern Illinois influence the spatial distribution of gray fox while testing and updating previously developed models for gray fox occupancy dynamics, 2.) analyzing colonization and extinction rates of native and domestic carnivores throughout southern Illinois, and 3.) assessing the influence domestic carnivores and urbanization have on native carnivore populations.