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Response of the red fox to expansion of human habitation in the Trans-Himalayan mountains

Abstract

Habitat modification through rural and urban expansions negatively impacts most wildlife species. However, anthropogenic food sources in habitations can benefit certain species. The red fox Vulpes vulpes can exploit anthropogenic food, but human subsidies sometimes also sustain populations of its potential competitor, the free-ranging dog Canis familiaris. As human habitations expand, populations of free-ranging dog are increasing in many areas, with unknown effects on wild commensal species such as the red fox. We examined occurrence and diet of red fox along a gradient of village size in a rural mountainous landscape of the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Diet analyses suggest substantial use of anthropogenic food (livestock and garbage) by red fox. Contribution of livestock and garbage to diet of red fox declined and increased, respectively, with increasing village size. Red fox occurrence did not show a clear relationship with village size. Red fox occurrence showed weak positive relationships with density of free-ranging dog and garbage availability, respectively, while density of free-ranging dog showed strong positive relationships with village size and garbage availability, respectively. We highlight the potential conservation concern arising from the strong positive association between density of free-ranging dog and village size.

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Acknowledgments

We are thankful to the Forest Research Institute University, Dehradun and Himachal Pradesh Forest Department (Wildlife Wing), Shimla, for the permissions and support. The fieldwork was supported by Narendra Babu Ecological Research Initiative Grant. We are also thankful to Fondation Segré–Whitley Fund for Nature for supporting our research and conservation programmes. Chhering Dorje and Takpa provided invaluable help during fieldwork.

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Correspondence to Abhishek Ghoshal.

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Ghoshal, A., Bhatnagar, Y.V., Mishra, C. et al. Response of the red fox to expansion of human habitation in the Trans-Himalayan mountains. Eur J Wildl Res 62, 131–136 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-015-0967-8

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Keywords

  • Vulpes vulpes
  • Canis familiaris
  • Carnivore
  • Human subsidies
  • Commensal
  • Diet
  • Dog