Differing Road Types in Urban Areas Impacting Coyote-Rabbit Relationships in Detroit – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Differing Road Types in Urban Areas Impacting Coyote-Rabbit Relationships in Detroit

Emily Xin-Yi Teh


Pronouns: she/her/hers

Research Mentor(s): Nyeema Harris, Assistant Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 4 (2pm-2:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 8
Presenter: 6

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Over the past decades, Americans have moved to urban cities across the country. In an effort to cope with increasing populations, many cities have elected to build ever-expanding roadway systems, which increases wildlife habitat fragmentation and reduces connectivity. Detroit, the largest urban center in the state of Michigan, has a park system made up of a few dozen parks, which offers a number of resources to wildlife, including food and water. However, most of Detroit’s parks are separated by roads and buildings, hindering the ability for animals to move between green spaces. Here we assess the effect of various types of roads (residential, city transit, and highways) separating the parks on the potential predator-prey relationship between coyotes (Canis latrans) and cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus). Using an extensive camera trap dataset across 24 parks, we used trap success to indicate the presence of each species in the parks, with higher trap success rates correlating to higher site use. Co-occurrence between the two species, based on camera detections from both species at a certain camera, suggests more interactions between the predator-prey pair. We expect that rabbits will be more vulnerable when crossing busier roads, most notably highways, due to their smaller size and lowered ability to avoid transportation. Meanwhile, coyotes will experience lower trap successes in parks closer to residential roads, due to their tendency to cross between green spaces more often. We expect that co-occurrence will remain the lowest at cameras near residential areas, due to the ease for coyotes to move around, and highest at cameras near highways. A decrease in co-occurrence between the two species would lead to limitations on the coyotes’ access to prey, potentially causing them to seek alternative food sources. The results of this study reveal the consequences of habitat fragmentation and busy roads on a native predator-prey relationship, enabling city planners and researchers to better understand how anthropogenic transportation actions affect wildlife.

Authors: Emily Teh, Nyeema Harris
Research Method: Data Collection and Analysis

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