Asymmetrical intraguild interactions with coyotes, red foxes, and domestic dogs may contribute to competitive exclusion of declining gray foxes

Dana J. Morin, Damon B. Lesmeister, Clayton K. Nielsen, Eric M. Schauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Species coexistence is governed by availability of resources and intraguild interactions including strategies to reduce ecological overlap. Gray foxes are dietary generalist mesopredators expected to benefit from anthropogenic disturbance, but populations have declined across the midwestern USA, including severe local extirpation rates coinciding with high coyote and domestic dog occurrence and low red fox occurrence. We used data from a large-scale camera trap survey in southern Illinois, USA to quantify intraguild spatial and temporal interactions among the canid guild including domestic dogs. We used a two-species co-occurrence model to make pairwise assessments of conditional occupancy and detection rates. We also estimated temporal activity overlap among species and fit a fixed-effects hierarchical community occupancy model with the four canid species. We partitioned the posterior distributions to compare gray fox occupancy probabilities conditional on estimated state of combinations of other species to assess support for hypothesized interactions. We found no evidence of broadscale avoidance among native canids and conclude that spatial and temporal segregation were limited by ubiquitous human disturbance. Mean guild richness was two canid species at a site and gray fox occupancy was greater when any combination of sympatric canids was also present, setting the stage for competitive exclusion over time. Domestic dogs may amplify competitive interactions by increasing canid guild size to the detriment of gray foxes. Our results suggest that while human activities can benefit some mesopredators, other species such as gray foxes may serve as bellwethers for habitat degradation with trophic downgrading and continued anthropogenic homogenization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere9074
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • biotic homogenization
  • co-occurrence
  • interspecific competition
  • niche partitioning
  • trophic downgrading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology


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