Ecol Evol 2020 Aug 15;10(16):8705-8714. Epub 2020 Jul 15.
Camp Fire Program in Wildlife Conservation State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry Syracuse New York USA.
Measuring wildlife responses to anthropogenic activities often requires long-term, large-scale datasets that are difficult to collect. This is particularly true for rare or cryptic species, which includes many mammalian carnivores. Citizen science, in which members of the public participate in scientific work, can facilitate collection of large datasets while increasing public awareness of wildlife research and conservation. Hunters provide unique benefits for citizen science given their knowledge and interest in outdoor activities. We examined how anthropogenic changes to land cover impacted relative abundance of two sympatric canids, coyote (), and red fox () at a large spatial scale. In order to assess how land cover affected canids at this scale, we used citizen science data from bow hunter sighting logs collected throughout New York State, USA, during 2004-2017. We found that the two species had contrasting responses to development, with red foxes positively correlated and coyotes negatively correlated with the percentage of low-density development. Red foxes also responded positively to agriculture, but less so when agricultural habitat was fragmented. Agriculture provides food and denning resources for red foxes, whereas coyotes may select forested areas for denning. Though coyotes and red foxes compete in areas of sympatry, we did not find a relationship between species abundance, likely a consequence of the coarse spatial resolution used. Red foxes may be able to coexist with coyotes by altering their diets and habitat use, or by maintaining territories in small areas between coyote territories. Our study shows the value of citizen science, and particularly hunters, in collection of long-term data across large areas (i.e., the entire state of New York) that otherwise would unlikely be obtained.