Date of Award

6-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Biology

Program

Biology

First Advisor/Chairperson

Diana Lafferty

Abstract

Mammalian carnivores are elusive, enigmatic species that often play keystone roles in ecosystems through direct (i.e., predation) and indirect (i.e., perceived predation risk) effects. Worldwide many carnivore species are experiencing rapid human-mediated population declines due to landscape change and habitat disturbance. For researchers, carnivores present unique challenges due to their large home ranges, low population densities, sensitivity to human disturbance, and direct persecution. Further, growing evidence shows that human activity can impact carnivore behavior and community structure by altering predator-prey interactions, shifting diel activity patterns, and altering wildlife movement leading to increased sightings, nuisance reports, and harvests. To investigate how human activity influences U.S. carnivore communities, I explored variation in spatiotemporal activity of American black bear and bobcat, and assessed carnivore co-occurrence using camera trap data. I constructed diel activity density curves, applied multispecies occupancy models, and calculated attraction-avoidance ratios to describe relationships among members of the carnivore guild relative to various types of human activity. My results suggested the bobcat can function as a dominant carnivore dependent on community structure, with dominant carnivores (i.e., wolves, pumas) influenced primarily by human-related factors, and subordinate carnivores (i.e., foxes) impacted by environmental factors. Further, American black bear activity did not vary with different types of human activity, yet protected areas were positively associated with black bear presence during the annual hunting season along with increased nocturnal activity. Understanding the influence human activity has on carnivore community dynamics is critical for establishing successful management practices to promote the persistence of carnivore guilds.

Access Type

Open Access

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