Water Developments and Canids in Two North American Deserts: A Test of the Indirect Effect of Water Hypothesis

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Anthropogenic modifications to landscapes intended to benefit wildlife may negatively influence wildlife communities. Anthropogenic provisioning of free water (water developments) to enhance abundance and distribution of wildlife is a common management practice in arid regions where water is limiting. Despite the long-term and widespread use of water developments, little is known about how they influence native species. Water developments may negatively influence arid-adapted species (e.g., kit fox, Vulpes macrotis) by enabling water-dependent competitors (e.g., coyote, Canis latrans) to expand distribution in arid landscapes (i.e., indirect effect of water hypothesis). We tested the two predictions of the indirect effect of water hypothesis (i.e., coyotes will visit areas with free water more frequently and kit foxes will spatially and temporally avoid coyotes) and evaluated relative use of free water by canids in the Great Basin and Mojave Deserts from 2010 to 2012. We established scent stations in areas with (wet) and without (dry) free water and monitored visitation by canids to these sites and visitation to water sources using infrared-triggered cameras. There was no difference in the proportions of visits to scent stations in wet or dry areas by coyotes or kit foxes at either study area. We did not detect spatial (no negative correlation between visits to scent stations) or temporal (no difference between times when stations were visited) segregation between coyotes and kit foxes. Visitation to water sources was not different for coyotes between study areas, but kit foxes visited water sources more in Mojave than Great Basin. Our results did not support the indirect effect of water hypothesis in the Great Basin or Mojave Deserts for these two canids.




Hall, L. K., Larsen, R. T., Knight, R. N., Bunnell, K. D., & McMillan, B. R. (2013). Water Developments and Canids in Two North American Deserts: A Test of the Indirect Effect of Water Hypothesis. PLoS ONE, 8(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0067800

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