Picking the right cache: caching site selection for egg predators in the arctic

  • Claire-Cécile Juhasz
  • Ambroise Lycke
  • Vincent Careau
  • Gilles Gauthier
  • Jean-François Giroux
  • Nicolas Lecomte
Original Paper


Food hoarding is often considered an adaptive behaviour to extend the period of availability of food resources. Finding the right caching site for storage and retrieval is of paramount importance, yet how caching sites are selected is poorly known. Here, we examine site selection for egg caching by a tundra predator, the arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus, which can overcome large seasonal prey variations by extensive caching. During the short arctic summer, colonial breeding birds like geese produce in a short time period many eggs, which provide a large quantity of predictable resources for consumption and caching. We predicted that foxes would select caching sites with specific characteristics, such as shallow permafrost, and tall hummocks (small mounds in tundra landscapes, which should facilitate caching and provide visual cues for subsequent retrieval). We sampled the main physical characteristics of 48 caches and paired random sites inside a Greater Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) colony. Our study shows that foxes favour cache sites characterized by hummocks nearly twice as higher than at nearby random sites. The depth of the active layer of permafrost did not influence cache site selection. Foxes may select tundra features that possibly enhance caching efficiency and retrieval probability. Our study elucidates one aspect of food hoarding behaviour in extreme habitats characterized by strong variations of resource availability.


Habitat selection Food storage Hoarding Predator Arctic fox 



Funding was provided by grants from the Canada Research Chair program to Nicolas Lecomte; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to Gilles Gauthier, Nicolas Lecomte, and J.-F. Giroux; the Arctic Goose Joint Venture (Canadian Wildlife Service), ArcticNet, the Université de Moncton, and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Logistic support was generously provided by the Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP). The authors thank all the people who participated in the fieldwork. The author are indebted to the Hunters and Trappers Association of Pond Inlet and to Parks Canada for allowing us to work on Bylot Island. The authors thank François Rousseu, Pauline Toni and Daniel Garrett for their helpful comments on previous drafts of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in this study, which involves animals, were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 44 kb)
300_2018_2358_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (45 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 45 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canada Research Chair in Polar and Boreal Ecology and Centre d’Études NordiquesUniversity of MonctonMonctonCanada
  2. 2.Institut de recherche sur les forêtsUniversité du Québec en Abitibi-TémiscamingueQuébecCanada
  3. 3.Canada Research Chair in Functional Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  4. 4.Département de biologie et Centre d’Études NordiquesUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  5. 5.Département des sciences biologiquesUniversité du Québec à MontréalQuébecCanada

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