Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Christine Maher

Abstract

Prey interpret predator cues as a warning and use them to assess the danger of a given area. Multiple prey species avoid chemical cues from predators at feeding sites because the risk of death outweighs the benefit of food. However, we lack information regarding avoidance of chemical cues from competitors as well as how foraging behavior changes alongside vegetative cover. To test if chemical cues and veget~tive cover alter prey vigilance, number of visits, and time spent at feeding sites, I observed snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) in plots containing coyote (Canis latrans; predator) and moose (Alces alces; competitor) urine across a spectrum of vegetation densities. Snowshoe hares significantly reduced the number of visits to feeding plots when coyote or moose urine was administered. In plots containing coyote urine, number of visits decreased significantly as plots became more densely vegetated. Neither chemical cues nor vegetation density had a large effect on snowshoe hare vigilance or time spent in plots. These results suggest that competition between snowshoe hares and moose has selected for an avoidance response. This study also reinforces the idea that an increase in vegetation density could prove disadvantageous to prey, perhaps because some predators may utilize dense vegetation to their advantage while stalking.

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