Karen Hopper Usher | January 14, 2017
A rivalry between predators is playing out in the forests of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
It’s wolves vs coyotes vs foxes, and the effects of this competition are felt on down the food chain to deer mice, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Mammology.
Coyotes are like jerk roommates that steal your food, said David Flagel, the study’s lead author. That’s why wolves hate the fellow canid.
The story of the rivalry plays out on remote property owned by the University of Notre Dame that is home to a naturally rebounding wolf population, said David Flagel, the study’s lead author. Wolves have come back because of protections placed on the animals by the Endangered Species Act.
Their resurgence at the property in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula provides a good opportunity to study an ecological concept called “trophic cascades.”
Flagel translates that phrase as “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” A classic example of a trophic cascade is when a large predator helps vegetation by eating the animal that would have eaten the plants.