Carnivore coexistence in Chicago: niche partitioning of coyotes and red foxes

Alyson M. Cervantes, Robert L. Schooley, Elizabeth W. Lehrer, Travis Gallo, Maximilian L. Allen, Mason Fidino, Seth B. Magle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mesopredators including coyotes (Canis latrans) and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) often co-occur in urban environments, but how niche partitioning facilitates their coexistence remains unclear. Highly urbanized areas can be spatial refuges for smaller mesopredators (i.e., spatial human shield effect), however these species also may coexist through temporal niche partitioning. We used camera traps (n = 110 sites) across an urbanization gradient in Chicago to examine coyote-fox interactions from 2011 to 2018. We analyzed spatial partitioning through multi-season occupancy models and structural equation modeling (SEM), and quantified temporal overlap between canids and with humans. Coyotes most often occurred in natural areas, and urbanization reduced their colonization rates and increased their extinction rates. Initial occupancy for red foxes was negatively impacted by urbanization, but their extinction rates depended on a surprising interaction between coyotes and humans. When coyotes were rare, fox extinction was related positively to human activity; but when coyotes were more common, fox extinction was related negatively to human activity. This outcome may reflect a human shield effect at a within-site scale. The SEM further supported the negative impact of urbanization on both canids, and lack of an effect of coyotes on the distribution of foxes. Diel activity of coyotes and red foxes indicated temporal niche partitioning intensified at more urbanized sites. Our results suggest the spatial human shield effect is not operating across sites in Chicago. Instead, coyotes and red foxes may share green spaces, especially in highly urbanized areas, where species coexistence is promoted by temporal niche partitioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1293-1307
Number of pages15
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Intraguild predation
  • Niche partitioning
  • Occupancy
  • Predators
  • Urban wildlife

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


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