Foraging behaviours and population dynamics of arctic foxes
Northern environments are often characterised by large seasonal and annual fluctuations in food abundance. In this thesis, I examined how arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) used seasonally superabundant foods (geese and their eggs) and how access to these foods influenced population dynamics of arctic foxes. I addressed this against a backdrop of variation in lemming and vole abundance (small mammals hereafter) – the main foods of arctic foxes throughout most of their range. Field work was done at the large goose colony at Karrak Lake and surrounding areas in the Queen Maud Gulf Bird Sanctuary in Nunavut, Canada, in the spring and summers of 2000 to 2004. Behavioural observations of individually-marked arctic foxes showed that they took and cached 2,000-3,000 eggs per fox each year and that the rate at which they took eggs was largely unrelated to individual attributes of foxes (e.g. sex, size, and breeding status) and nesting distribution of geese. Further, the rate at which foxes took eggs varied considerably within individuals in that foxes were efficient at taking eggs at times and inefficient at other times. This may have resulted from foxes switching between foraging actively and taking eggs opportunistically while performing other demands such as territorial behaviours. Comparison of stable isotope ratios (13C and 15N) of fox tissues and those of their foods showed that the contribution of cached eggs to arctic fox diets was inversely related to collared lemming (Dicrostonyx torquatus) abundance. In fact, the contribution of cached eggs to overall fox diets increased from
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeMessier, François; Larivière, Serge; Hobson, Keith A.; Alisauskas, Ray T.; Wobeser, Gary A.
Copyright DateApril 2006
seasonally superabundant foods