COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Cats that live outdoors in the city do their darnedest to steer clear of urban coyotes, a new study says.
The cats cause less damage to wildlife in urban green spaces, such as city parks and nature preserves, because of that dodging, the study suggests. And they live longer and are healthier than previously thought.
"Free-roaming cats are basically partitioning their use of the urban landscape. They're not using the natural areas in cities very much because of the coyote presence there," said the study's lead author, Stan Gehrt, associate professor of environment and natural resources at The Ohio State University.
"It reduces the cats' vulnerability to coyotes, but at the same time, it means the coyotes are essentially protecting these natural areas from cat predation," he said.
The study, which was published recently in the online journal PLOS ONE, is the first to show how coyotes and free-roaming cats share space and interact with each other in urban areas.
Gehrt and his colleagues monitored the health, home ranges, habitat selections and other characteristics of 39 feral and stray cats near six parks and nature preserves in greater Chicago. The Chicago area has some of the densest populations of coyotes ever recorded.
The scientists found that most of the cats shunned the urban coyotes' "core activity areas" fragments of natural habitat within the city, as represented by the study's parks and nature preserves.
Instead, the cats restricted their own core activities to developed parts of the city, such as near homes and shops. Core activity areas are the areas within an animal's home range where the animal spends most of its time and concentrates most of its activities, including hunting.
"Coyotes essentially exclude cats from natural habitat fragments in cities either directly through predation or indirectly through the threat of predation," said Gehrt. "The cat
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Ohio State University