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Spatiotemporal pattern of interactions between an apex predator and sympatric species

October 7, 2020

Increases in apex predator abundance can influence the behavior of sympatric species, particularly when the available habitat and/or resources are limited. We assessed the temporal and spatiotemporal interactions between Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi) and six focal sympatric species in South Florida, where Florida panther abundance has increased by more than 6-fold since the 1990’s. Using camera trap data, we quantified species’ diel activity patterns, temporal overlap, and time-to-encounter (i.e., time between consecutive visits of a Florida panther and a focal species and vice versa). The Florida panther and bobcat (Lynx rufus) displayed a nocturnal activity pattern; the black bear (Ursus americanus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), and wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) were mostly diurnal; and the raccoon (Procyon lotor) was cathemeral. Prey species and black bears minimized encounters with Florida panthers by being active during the day and displaying longer time-to-encounter, whereas Florida panthers visited a site after a prey species at higher probabilities than after competitor species, and were more likely to visit an elevated site or upland habitat. Our results suggest that interactions between Florida panthers and sympatric species in our study system are driven by species-specific behavioral responses. Gaining a better understanding of the crucial interactions driving species coexistence is important for a better understanding of the structure and function of ecological communities and help manage the potential expansion of the Florida panther into Central Florida.