Population Ecology of Free-Roaming Cats and Interference Competition by Coyotes in Urban Parks

PLOS_ONEPLoS ONE 8(9): e75718, 2013

By Stanley D. Gehrt, Evan C. Wilson, Justin L. Brown, and Chris Anchor

“Free-roaming cats are a common element of urban landscapes worldwide, often causing controversy regarding their impacts on ecological systems and public health. We monitored cats within natural habitat fragments in the Chicago metropolitan area to characterize population demographics, disease prevalence, movement patterns and habitat selection, in addition to assessing the possible influence of coyotes on cats. The population was dominated by adults of both sexes, and 24% of adults were in reproductive condition. Annual survival rate was relatively high (S=0.70, SE=0.10), with vehicles and predation the primary causes of death.

Spatial overlaps between cats and coyotes using the same urban park

Spatial overlaps between cats and coyotes using the same urban park

“Size of annual home range varied by sex, but not reproductive status or body weight. We observed partitioning of the landscape by cats and coyotes, with little interspecific overlap between core areas of activity. Coyotes selected for natural habitats whereas cats selected for developed areas such as residences. Free-roaming cats were in better condition than we predicted, but their use of natural habitat fragments, and presumably their ecological impact, appeared to be limited by coyotes through intraguild competition.”