Anthropogenic provisioning of 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 distribution, competition dynamics, and behavior of native species. To elucidate the potential influences of water developments on native species, we tested hypotheses concerning the occurrence and behavior of native kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis). First, we tested the indirect effect of water hypothesis (IEWH) which proposes that water developments negatively affect the arid-adapted kit fox by enabling a water-dependent competitor (i.e., coyote; Canis latrans) to expand distribution in arid landscapes. We tested the two predictions of the IEWH (i.e., coyotes will visit areas with water more frequently and kit foxes will avoid coyotes) and evaluated relative use of 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) water and monitored visitation by canids to scent stations and 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. There was no correlation between visits to scent stations by 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. The intense visitation to water by kit foxes in Mojave challenges our understanding that this species does not readily drink water. Our results did not support the IEWH in the Great Basin or Mojave Deserts for these two canids. Second, we tested three hypotheses that have been proposed to explain spatial variation in vigilance behavior. The predator-vigilance hypothesis (PVH) proposes that prey increase vigilance where there is evidence of predators. The visibility-vigilance hypothesis (VVH) suggests that prey increase vigilance where detection of predators is impeded or visibility is obstructed. The refuge-vigilance hypothesis (RVH) proposes that prey may perceive areas with low visibility (greater cover) as refuges and decrease vigilance. We evaluated support for these hypotheses using the kit fox, a solitary carnivore subject to intraguild predation, as a model. From 2010 to 2012, we used infrared-triggered cameras to record video of kit fox behavior at water developments in the Mojave Desert. The RVH explained more variation in vigilance behavior of kit foxes than the other two hypotheses (AICc model weight = 0.37). Kit foxes were less vigilant at water developments with low overhead cover (refuge) obstructing visibility. Based on our results, the PVH and VVH may not be applicable to all species of prey. Solitary prey, unlike gregarious prey, may use areas with concealing cover to maximize resource acquisition and minimize vigilance.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


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carnivore, coyote, indirect effect, intraguild predation, kit fox, predation, refuge, remote camera, scent station, vigilance, visibility, water development, water source