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Dietary Analysis Of Sympatric Mammalian Carnivores In The Keweenaw Peninsula

1909 words - 8 pages

Resource partitioning occurs amongst animals that share the same resources, such as food and space (Shoener 1974), and allows for their coexistence (May 1973). The different utilization of spatial, temporal, and trophic niches between sympatric species allows for their partitioning of resources (Jácomo et al. 2004). Difference in body mass is one of the factors that contribute to the coexistence of species in that different sized animals will generally eat different sized food items, therefore utilizing different resources and reducing competition (Wilson 1975; Jácomo et al. 2004). In the case of predatory carnivores, as predator body mass increases, the size of their prey increases (Gittleman 1985; Vézina 1985). Differences in body size allow for specializations in prey selection with smaller predators having greater maneuverability and bursts of acceleration allowing for a greater success in capturing smaller prey, whereas, large predators are capable of handling larger prey due to increased jaw size and bite force (MacNulty, et al. 2009). Nonetheless, large predators are capable of utilizing both large prey and small prey, while small predators are restricted to hunting smaller prey giving larger predators a “competitive advantage”. Through prey-size distribution, this advantage can be diminished allowing for their coexistence (Wilson 1975).
Mammalian carnivore species inhabiting the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan are abundant consisting of several large carnivores and a variety of mesocarnivores. These species include, in decreasing order of body mass, black bears (Ursus americana), gray wolves (Canis lupus), coyotes (Canis latrans), bobcats (Lynx rufus), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), fishers (Martes pennanti), and American martens (Martes americana) (MDNR n.d.). Black bears are omnivorous and primarily feed on plant material with most vertebrate material consisting of carrion (Dewey and Kronk 2007). Gray wolves are pack hunters and their diets primarily consist of large ungulates, but smaller mammals including lagomorphs and rodents are not uncommon, especially for lone wolves (Dewey and Smith 2002). The diets of the remaining mesocarnivores are relatively similar in that they all primarily prey on small to medium sized lagomorphs and rodents, with fishers having an affinity for porcupines. The remainder of the mesocarnivore diet consists of reptiles, birds, carrion, and with the exception of bobcats, fruit and insects (Cavallini et al. 2009).
In this study, the diets of these carnivores in Keweenaw County will be analyzed to determine prey partitioning through scat analyses and the use of scent stations. Specifically, the hypotheses tested will be that black bears will consume primarily plant material, gray wolves will feed primarily on large ungulates, and amongst the mesocarnivores, predator body mass will correlate with prey size. In particular, the larger coyotes and bobcats will feed primarily on medium-sized mammalian...

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