CIE Spotlight: Human-modified habitats facilitate forest-dwelling populations of an invasive predator, Vulpes vulpes

Authors: Bronwyn A. Hradsky, Alan Robley, Ray Alexander, Euan G. Ritchie, Alan York & Julian Di Stefano

Source: Scientific Reports

Brief summary of the paper: Invasive and over-abundant predators pose a major threat to biodiversity and often benefit from human activities. Effective management requires understanding predator use of human-modified habitats (including resource subsidies and disturbed environments), and individual variation within populations.

We investigated selection for human-modified habitats by invasive red foxes, Vulpes vulpes, within two predominantly forested Australian landscapes. We predicted that foxes would select for human-modified habitats in their range locations and fine-scale movements, but that selection would vary between individuals. We GPS-tracked 19 foxes for 17–166 days; ranges covered 33 to >2500 ha. Approximately half the foxes selected for human-modified habitats at the range scale, with some ‘commuting’ more than five kilometres to farmland or townships at night. Two foxes used burnt forest intensively after a prescribed fire. In their fine-scale nocturnal movements, most foxes selected for human-modified habitats such as reservoirs, forest edges and roads, but there was considerable individual variation.

Native fauna in fragmented and disturbed habitats are likely to be exposed to high rates of fox predation, and anthropogenic food resources may subsidise fox populations within the forest interior. Coordinating fox control across land-tenures, targeting specific landscape features, and limiting fox access to anthropogenic resources will be important for biodiversity conservation.