Bears are without a doubt the dominant predators of their ecosystem. Other carnivores such as coyotes and bobcats frequently share those locations. Gray foxes are on that list too but further down the pecking order. There is a lot of competition around.
Recently, a group of University of New Hampshire researchers lead by Dr. Remington Moll published a study taking a deeper look at the hierarchy of these carnivores. What they found was that gray foxes, which are the smallest of this group, stayed close to areas where there were black bears. Consequently, coyotes stayed away. However, when winter rolled in and the bears were hibernating, the coyotes were three times more likely to move into that territory. The gray foxes in response vacated the area. As a result, the researchers dubbed the seasonal protective presence of black bears as the “bear shield” benefiting the foxes.
Researchers conclude that mortal fear drove the behaviors of both the prey and the predators. Coyotes gave wide berth to the bears. Foxes gave wide berth to everyone. When the bears weren’t around, coyotes become top dogs, so to speak.
These behaviors are believed to be instinctual. Even though this study was done near Lake Tahoe where black bears were nearly extinct a few decades ago, it is likely to be the common response in any area where black bears, gray foxes, and coyotes co-exist.
To read more about this study, check out this link: https://www.unh.edu/unhtoday/news/release/2021/06/03/unh-research-black-bears-may-play-important-role-protecting-gray-fox
And while we are talking about research from the University of New Hampshire (which happens to be my alma mater)…
Another team of researchers, also under the direction of Dr. Moll, discovered the longest recorded distance roamed by an adult male white-tailed deer. He covered close to 200 miles, in just over three weeks. He crossed a major river seven times, a railroad, an interstate highway, and eight state highways.
The distance was remarkable, but there were other notable features about this trek. First, this was an adult buck. Juvenile males do wander for breeding purposes but adult males tend to have an established range. The buck also traveled quickly and at night, both of which are unusual. Deer frequently shelter in the forest overnight.
This did occur during hunting season, but there is no apparent correlation to a pursuit.
Maybe this buck, who originated in Missouri, just wanted to see the rest of the state?
You can read the original press release here: https://www.unh.edu/unhtoday/news/release/2021/06/08/buck-stops-where-unh-research-records-longest-ever-deer-distance