Habitat selection and diurnal refugia of gray foxes in southwestern Georgia, USA


Understanding habitat selection of gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is essential to evaluate their potential response to changes in land use and predator communities. Few studies have evaluated temporal habitat selection or explicitly identified habitats used by gray foxes for diurnal refugia. We used GPS collars to obtain location data for 34 gray foxes (20 males and 14 females) from February 2014 to December 2015 to evaluate temporal (seasonal and diel) habitat selection and selection of diurnal refugia in southwestern Georgia, USA. We analyzed habitat selection at 2 levels, selection of a core area within the home range and selection of locations within the home range. Habitat selection was non-random (P < 0.001) but consistent among seasons, between day and night, and between sexes (P > 0.05). Hardwoods, human use (i.e., areas associated with regular human activity such as buildings, lawns, parking areas, etc.), and roads were selected (P < 0.05), whereas pine dominated stands were used randomly (P > 0.05). Selection of habitats for diurnal refugia did not vary seasonally or by sex (P > 0.05), with foxes selecting (P < 0.05) areas near hardwood forests, roads, agriculture, human use, pastures/food plots, and shrub scrub habitats. Gray foxes were observed on the ground while resting, and we found no evidence of gray foxes diurnally resting in trees. Our results suggest that on our study area, gray foxes are an edge species that prefer forests with a hardwood component in areas near human use and roads.