Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), raccoons (Procyon lotor), and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are found throughout the United States, wherever there is suitable denning habitat and food resources. Densities of these predators have increased throughout the Intermountain West as a consequence of human alterations in habitat. Within the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (hereafter, refuge), in northern Utah, USA, upland nesting habitat for ducks is limited to the levee banks and roadsides. Red foxes, raccoons, and striped skunks, which prey on upland nesting birds, are also abundant on the refuge. We studied red foxes, raccoons, and striped skunks' use of levees and the edges associated with them within a wetland environment. Red fox, raccoon, and striped skunk locations were negatively correlated with distance to the nearest dike (−0.78, −0.69, and −0.45, respectively). Animals incorporated more roads and/or levees into their home ranges than expected by chance (x̄ = 2.6; Z < 0.001); incorporation of levees was greater during the dispersal season than the rearing season (P = 0.03). Skunk home ranges (average size, 3.0 km2) were oriented along roads and levees (P = 0.03), whereas raccoon (average size, 3.6 km2) and fox home ranges (average size, 3.5 km2) were not (P = 0.93, P = 0.13, respectively). Fox home ranges in the refuge were more oblong in shape than reported elsewhere (P = 0.03). However, home-range shapes of raccoons and striped skunks were similar to previous studies (P = 0.84, P = 0.97, respectively). The use of roads and levees within the refuge increases the possible travel distance and penetration of predators into wetland environments. This contributes to increased depredation of waterfowl nests and to decreased recruitment. Managers of similar areas might decrease depredation of waterfowl by disrupting the linear pattern of corridors, thereby decreasing the congestion of animal roads and levees. This would, then, decrease the encounter rates of predators and prey.
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Vol. 70 • No. 4