This work aims to understand the ecology of the Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in the North-Western Trans-Himalayan Landscape. It is one of the most extensively studied carnivore species, found in a wide range of habitats, ranging from arctic to subtropical regions. However, in the arid Trans-Himalayan cold mountainous landscape there is a dearth of information and there are very few studies pertaining to this animal. Despite living in human-dominated landscapes, red fox is rarely sighted, owing to their highly elusive and secretive behaviour. The major objectives are to study the spatial, feeding and denning ecology of the foxes. For understanding the spatial ecology, the foxes had been radio collared to find their home range, activity and movement pattern. Since dens are important and most critical stage in the life history of red fox, selection of den sites based on various parameters is another objective of this study. The foraging ecology of this animal was studied by scat collection. This study yielded the diet segregation with its most abundant sympatric carnivores, i.e. the dogs in addition to the change in the diet across seasons.
A long-term study has revealed that the red fox is expanding its territories towards the poles and competing with the arctic fox. Similar research in the Himalaya could help us to understand the red fox competition with Tibetan sand fox and intervened relationships with other wildlife species. The Trans-Himalayas are experiencing a rapid change in land use pattern and fast urbanisation, where the opportunities for wild animals to consume human-provided foods may be increasing. Global warming has also led to an increase in human habitats in the Himalaya which in turn has led to an increase in the red fox population by the provision of anthropogenic food subsidies. The red fox is a species which can successfully exploit these subsidies without coming into conflict with the humans. Due to the red foxes’ opportunistic, generalist and highly adaptable nature and its widespread distribution, it has great potential to be utilized as an indicator species for climate change studies. Long term-monitoring of this species can help in generating reliable data set for monitoring how the species respond with the changing land use-land cover and climate. This study could be used as a baseline data and may act as an effective tool for future management planning and conservation schemes.
Funding Agency: National Mission on Himalayan Studies
Researcher: Hussain Reshamwala