Arctic Fox Conference 2022


For territorial animals, territory characteristics such as vegetation types, topography and proximity to risky habitats affect how individuals allocate time for foraging, juvenile care and territory maintenance. Territory quality can therefore have a large effect on survival and breeding success, and likely affects movement patterns and territory use across spatial and temporal scales. The Scandinavian arctic fox population is on the fringe of the species distribution range and isolated to mountain tundra areas, forming islands surrounded by forests. In contrast to the long-range across sea-ice movements observed in individuals in Canada and Svalbard, Scandinavian foxes are generally regarded as limited in their movements outside their local mountain area, as implied by genetics studies and sightings of tagged individuals. However, detailed information on movement patterns and habitat use during and outside the breeding season was not available until recently. Based on the first GPS-collar data recorded from the Scandinavian arctic fox population, we have studied the habitat use, territory size and movement patterns in 13 breeding and non-breeding individuals, during and after the breeding period. Breeding individuals showed a strong fidelity to their den sites, and feeding stations appeared to be monopolised as spatial overlap was small around those. All individuals but one had no or limited movements outside the mountain tundra habitat, stressing the importance of forested areas as potentially strong dispersion barriers between the fragmented Arctic fox sub populations in Scandinavia. We also constructed a habitat distribution model based on collar data, and compared it with a den location based model. Our data adds to a growing body of spatial data collected from different arctic fox populations living in contrasting environments. And we believe that such studies give the arctic fox has a strong potential to be a model species for the study of ecosystem effects on spatial behaviour.

2022-08-26 — 2022-08-29
Longyearbyen, Svalbard