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15 March 2022 Carnivores in color: pelt color patterns among carnivores in Idaho
David E. Ausband, Jessica M. Krohner
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Pelt color serves many functions from signaling to crypsis to thermoregulation and its purpose has been a lively source of debate in biology for over a century. Determining the effects of both habitat and human influences on pelt color patterns can be difficult. We made novel use of a multispecies occupancy model by defining “pelt color” as “species.” We then used this model to test predictions and estimate pelt color patterns concurrently for three carnivore species in Idaho, United States. We predicted pelt patterns of all three carnivores would be affected by environmental variables as well as human disturbance. Areas of Idaho where baiting was allowed and preferential harvest possible did not explain pelt patterns in black bears and neither did forest cover. Road density was positively associated with detection probability but negatively associated with occupancy of both black and brown pelt bears, however. Gray pelt wolves were found more often in areas with higher road densities than black wolves. As predicted, black, but not gray, wolves were positively associated with forest cover. Both red and black pelt foxes were positively associated with increasing elevation and road density. Black pelt foxes were negatively associated with forest cover, mirroring the habitat use described for native black pelt foxes. We demonstrate how using noninvasively collected data and extending multispecies occupancy models can allow biologists to study the distribution of different pelt colors in wild populations.

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Society of Mammalogists 2022. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.
David E. Ausband and Jessica M. Krohner "Carnivores in color: pelt color patterns among carnivores in Idaho," Journal of Mammalogy 103(3), 598-607, (15 March 2022).
Received: 18 June 2021; Accepted: 9 December 2021; Published: 15 March 2022
multispecies occupancy
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