Animals must balance foraging with the need to avoid predators and risky habitats that decrease their fitness, and at the same time they must cope with competitors vying for habitat and resources. We examined how habitat selection and population density of four native small mammals were altered by the presence of red imported fire ants (
Solenopsis invicta). When population size was low, hispid cotton rats ( Sigmodon hispidus) and pigmy mice ( Baiomys taylori) as well as white-footed mice ( Peromyscus leucopus) used the safe, low fire ant habitat, as predicted by theories of density-dependent habitat selection. However, as fire ant population sizes expanded, cotton rats appeared to displace pigmy mice into the fire ant-dense grassland drainage while white-footed mice ( Peromyscus leucopus) displaced all the other small mammals from low fire ant forest/brushland habitat.