Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)

Degree Level



Biological Sciences


Brett A. DeGregorio

Committee Member

Caleb Roberts

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Mortensen

Third Committee Member

Jennifer R. Ballard


Backyard, Diversity, Mammals, Occupancy, Richness, Wildlife management, wildlife conservation


The human footprint is rapidly expanding, and wildlife habitat is continuously being converted to human residential properties. Most wildlife residing in developing areas are displaced to nearby undeveloped areas. However, some animals can coexist with humans and acquire the necessary resources (food, water, shelter) within the human environment. This may be particularly true when development is low intensity, as in suburban yards. Due to the wide variety in how homeowners utilize their yards, they can be considered individually managed “greenspaces.” These yards can provide a range of food (e.g., bird feeders, compost, gardens), water (bird baths and garden ponds), and shelter (e.g., brush-piles, outbuildings) resources to wildlife. Due to their larger space requirements and vulnerability to human persecution, larger mammalian predators often respond differently to the presence of humans and human development than smaller mammals. Some medium-bodied mammalian predators such as coyote (Canis latrans), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), have adapted to coexist in human-dominated areas. There is a currently a need to understand how human-created land use such as residential yards can support wildlife as well as how certain yard features may facilitate human-wildlife conflict. In Chapter I, I evaluated which landscape and yard features influence the richness and diversity of the herbivores and mesopredators within residential yards in a rapidly developing region. I deployed game cameras in 46 residential yards in summer 2021 and 96 yards in 2022 from approximately April 15-August 15th. I found that mesopredator diversity was negatively impacted by fences and positively influenced by the number of bird feeders present in a yard. Mesopredator richness increased with the amount of forest within 400m of the camera. Herbivore diversity and richness were positively influenced by the area of forest within 400m of the yard and by the area of garden space within the yard, respectively. Our results suggest that while landscape does play a role in the presence of wildlife in a residential area, homeowners also have some agency over the richness and diversity of mammals using their yards based on the features they create or maintain on their properties. For chapter II, I used the data collected over the summers of 2021 and 2022 from deployed game cameras in 46 and 96 residential yards in Northwest Arkansas USA to understand which landscape and yard features influenced the occupancy of the predators; coyotes (Canis latrans) and both gray and red foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus and Vulpes vulpes). I found that predator occupancy was marginally influenced by yard level features as opposed to landscape composition. Fences had significant negative effects on the occupancy of coyotes in our study. The total area of potential den sites in a yard also slightly increased the probability of coyote occupancy in a yard. When present in a yard, I found that gray foxes have increased detection rates in yards with poultry, highlighting a likely source of conflict with homeowners. I found that the interspecific interactions between our focal predator species were all modest but positive, indicating that these species likely use yards for similar resources and have ways of minimizing antagonistic interactions with one another in the suburban environment. As the number of residential yards continues to grow across the country, our results suggest that there are ways in which our yards can provide valuable resources to suburban predators and that homeowners also have the agency to mitigate interactions with predators through management of their yard features.