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Predation of arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) pups by common ravens (Corvus corax)

Abstract

Identifying correctly trophic interactions is important for understanding population dynamics and ecosystem functioning. However, some predator–prey relationships may still remain undetected, due to the difficulty of observing rare predation events. We report the first observation of predation of arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) pups by common ravens (Corvus corax). The predation event was witnessed on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada, through an automatic camera placed on a den. On June 8, 2013, the day following pup emergence from the den, the complete litter of four was killed and taken away by a pair of ravens despite the intermittent presence of the mother. This event lasted 2.5 h, occurred during a low lemming year, and resulted in the fox pair failing their reproduction. Only two other fox litters were present that summer in our 600 km2 study area, so this litter predated by ravens accounted for 25 % (4/16) of the pups produced. Our report shows how continuous monitoring of dens using automatic cameras can allow documentation of rare events. In addition to food competition and cache raiding, pup predation contributes to the antagonistic interactions between arctic foxes and ravens in the High Arctic, which may intensify during low lemming years. This observation allows a better understanding of species interactions within the Arctic predator guild.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the many field workers who collected data on Bylot Island. We also thank Gustaf Samelius and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on an earlier draft. This study was supported by (alphabetical order): Canada Foundation for Innovation, Canada Research Chairs Program, Fonds de recherche du Québec–Nature et technologies (FRQNT), Kenneth M Molson Foundation, Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Network of Centers of Excellence of Canada ArcticNet, Northern Ecosystem Initiative (Environment Canada), Northern Scientific Training Program (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), NSERC CREATE training program in northern environmental sciences EnviroNorth, Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, Parks Canada Agency and Polar Continental Shelf Program (Natural Resources Canada).

Author information

Correspondence to Clément Chevallier or Dominique Berteaux.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Full picture sequence showing a predation event by ravens (Corvus corax) on arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) pups on Bylot Island (Nunavut, Canada). The pictures were taken by an automatic camera placed on the arctic fox den. The sequence presents 575 pictures starting from June 8, 2013 at 15:45:02 (arctic fox mother present with live pups) to 20:45:57 (first return of the mother at the den after the predation of the last pup). During these 5 hours, two ravens visited the den and the complete litter of four pups was killed within 2.5 hours by one of the ravens. The first pup is killed at 15:57:50, the second one at 16:49:51, the third one at 16:53:46 and the fourth one at 18:12:34. Supplementary material 1 (MP4 93081 kb)

Full picture sequence showing a predation event by ravens (Corvus corax) on arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) pups on Bylot Island (Nunavut, Canada). The pictures were taken by an automatic camera placed on the arctic fox den. The sequence presents 575 pictures starting from June 8, 2013 at 15:45:02 (arctic fox mother present with live pups) to 20:45:57 (first return of the mother at the den after the predation of the last pup). During these 5 hours, two ravens visited the den and the complete litter of four pups was killed within 2.5 hours by one of the ravens. The first pup is killed at 15:57:50, the second one at 16:49:51, the third one at 16:53:46 and the fourth one at 18:12:34. Supplementary material 1 (MP4 93081 kb)

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Chevallier, C., Lai, S. & Berteaux, D. Predation of arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) pups by common ravens (Corvus corax). Polar Biol 39, 1335–1341 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-015-1843-4

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Keywords

  • Interspecific killing
  • Juvenile
  • Predation
  • Foraging innovation
  • Vulpes lagopus
  • Corvus corax