Response of red fox to village expansion

How does red fox respond to increasing village size in the Trans-Himalaya?

Being a commensal to humans, red fox depend on human habitations for food, especially during winter. Does it benefit? What challenges does it face?

  • A red fox crossing over from Kee to Khurik village across the frozen bed of the Spiti River

  • A red fox exploring the snow covered slopes around Kee village

  • Kaza, the largest town in Spiti is a hub for tourists & feral dogs

  • The frozen Spiti River in winter overlooked by the Kee Monastery, Spiti

Project summary

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.

Local conservation policy intervention

This project was one of the reasons to develop and implement two long-term ongoing conservation programs, free-ranging dog sterilization and garbage management, in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.

People

Partners

  • Himachal Pradesh Forest Department (Wildlife Wing)

Funding

  • Narendra Babu Ecological Research Initiative Grant (NBERIG)

Did you know your internet explorer is out of date?

To access our website you should upgrade to a newer version or other web browser.

How to do that »