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The presence of large carnivores can affect lower trophic levels by suppressing mesocarnivores and reducing their impacts on prey. The mesopredator release hypothesis therefore predicts prey abundance will be higher where large carnivores are present, but this prediction assumes limited dietary overlap between large and mesocarnivores. Where dietary overlap is high, e.g., among omnivorous carnivore species, or where prey are relatively easily accessible, the potential exists for large and mesocarnivores to have redundant impacts on prey, though this possibility has not been explored. The intertidal community represents a potentially important but poorly studied resource for coastal carnivore populations, and one for which dietary overlap between carnivores may be high. To evaluate usage of the intertidal community by coastal carnivores and the potential for redundancy between large and mesocarnivores, we surveyed (i) intertidal prey abundance (crabs and fish) and (ii) the abundance and activity of large carnivores (predominantly black bears) and mesocarnivores (raccoons and mink) in an area with an intact carnivore community in coastal British Columbia, Canada. Overall carnivore activity was strongly related to intertidal prey availability. Notably, this relationship was not contingent on carnivore species identity, suggestive of redundancy±high intertidal prey availability was associated with either greater large carnivore activity or greater mesocarnivore activity. We then compared intertidal prey abundances in this intact system, in which bears dominate, with those in a nearby system where bears and other large carnivores have been extirpated, and raccoons are the primary intertidal predator. We found significant similarities in intertidal species abundances, providing additional evidence for redundancy between large (bear) and mesocarnivore (raccoon) impacts on intertidal prey. Taken together, our results indicate that intertidal prey shape habitat use and competition among coastal carnivores, and raise the interesting possibility of redundancy between mesocarnivores and large carnivores in their role as intertidal top predators.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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