Polar Biology

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 333–345 | Cite as

Natal den selection by sympatric arctic and red foxes on Herschel Island, Yukon, Canada

  • Daniel Gallant
  • Donald G. Reid
  • Brian G. Slough
  • Dominique Berteaux
Original Paper


In the twentieth century, red fox (Vulpes vulpes) expanded into the Canadian Arctic, where it competes with arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) for food and shelter. Red fox dominates in physical interactions with the smaller arctic fox, but little is known about competition between them on the tundra. On Hershel Island, north Yukon, where these foxes are sympatric, we focused on natal den choice, a critical aspect of habitat selection. We tested the hypothesis that red fox displaces arctic fox from dens in prey-rich habitats. We applied an approach based on model comparisons to analyse a 10-year data set and identify factors important to den selection. Red fox selected dens in habitats that were more prey-rich in spring. When red foxes reproduced, arctic fox selected dens with good springtime access, notably many burrows unblocked by ice and snow. These provided the best refuge early in the reproductive season. In the absence of red foxes, arctic foxes selected dens offering good shelter (i.e. large isolated dens). Proximity to prey-rich habitats was consistently less important than the physical aspects of dens for arctic fox. Our study shows for the first time that red foxes in the tundra select dens associated primarily with prey-rich areas, while sympatric arctic foxes do not. These results fit a model of red fox competitively interfering with arctic fox, the first detailed study of such competition in a true arctic setting.


Competition Den Reproduction Habitat selection Herschel Island Vulpes lagopus Vulpes vulpes Yukon 



We thank G. Szor, F. Racine, F. Taillefer, A. Fehr, H. Slama, A. Kenney, E. Hofer, C. J. Krebs, and B. S. Gilbert for assistance in the field. We thank park rangers (E. McLeod, L. J. Meyook, J. McLeod, D. Arey, S. McLeod, P. Foisy) and chief ranger R. Gordon for logistical support in the field. Funding for this research comes from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (grants to D. Berteaux, Alexander Graham Bell CGS-D graduate scholarship to D. Gallant), the International Polar Year program of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Network of Centers of Excellence of Canada, ArcticNet, the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (D. Reid), the Polar Continental Shelf Program (PCSP), the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Aurora Research Institute, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Centre d’Études Nordiques (CEN), the Northern Scientific Training Program (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), and the Université du Québec à Rimouski.

Supplementary material

300_2013_1434_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (178 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 179 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Gallant
    • 1
  • Donald G. Reid
    • 2
  • Brian G. Slough
    • 3
  • Dominique Berteaux
    • 1
  1. 1.Chaire de recherche du Canada en biodiversité nordique and Centre d’Études NordiquesUniversité du Québec à RimouskiRimouskiCanada
  2. 2.Wildlife Conservation Society CanadaWhitehorseCanada
  3. 3.WhitehorseCanada

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