Predation of arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) pups by common ravens (Corvus corax)
- 316 Downloads
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.
KeywordsInterspecific killing Juvenile Predation Foraging innovation Vulpes lagopus Corvus corax
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).
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)
- Cypher BL (2003) Foxes. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management, and conservation. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 511–546Google Scholar
- Johnston DW, Williamson FSL (1960) Heart weights of North American crows and ravens. Wilson Bull 72:248–252Google Scholar
- Kumlien L (1879) Contributions to the natural history of Arctic America made in connection with the Howgate polar expedition, 1877–78. US National Museum Bulletin 15, Washington, p 179Google Scholar
- Latham ADM, Boutin S (2011) Wolf, Canis lupus, pup mortality: interspecific predation or non-parental infanticide? Can Field Nat 125:158–161Google Scholar
- Otto RD (1998) Attempted predation on a snowshoe hare, Lepus americanus, by an American marten, Martes americana, and a northern raven, Corvus corax. Can Field Nat 112:333–334Google Scholar
- Pamperin NJ, Follmann EH, Petersen B (2006) Interspecific killing of an arctic fox by a red fox at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Arctic 59:361–364Google Scholar
- Stearns SC (1992) The evolution of life histories. Oxford University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Tannerfeldt M, Moehrenschlager A, Angerbjörn A (2003) Den ecology of swift, kit and arctic foxes: a review. In: Sovada MA, Carbyn LN (eds) Ecology and conservation of swift foxes in a changing world. Canadian Plains Research Center, Regina, pp 167–181Google Scholar
- Williams BK, Nichols JD, Conroy MJ (2002) Analysis and management of animal populations: modeling, estimation and decision making. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar