Anthropogenic food subsidies change the pattern of red fox diet and occurrence across Trans-Himalayas, India

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Journal of Arid Environments, ISSN: 0140-1963, Vol: 150, Page: 15-20

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Hussain S. Reshamwala; Shivam Shrotriya; Bhaskar Bora; Salvador Lyngdoh; Rodolfo Dirzo; Bilal Habib
Elsevier BV
Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Environmental Science; Earth and Planetary Sciences
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The anthropogenic food subsidy in the diet of animal populations is known to have negative ecological and physiological impacts on wildlife. The red fox ( Vulpes vulpes ), a generalist species living close to human habitation, often has access to garbage dumps. We studied the dietary pattern of red fox in the cold desert of the Trans-Himalayas in India, where natural resources are limited. We analysed a total of 1264 scats across six representative sites and examined red fox occurrences as a response to the availability of anthropogenic subsidies. We found that human subsidies contribute substantially (maximum 55.87%) to red fox diet. Red fox occurrence significantly increased with the increase in consumption of the food items originating from human subsidies (R 2  = 0.85, p = .008). Red foxes consumed less wild prey (rodents and lagomorphs) where there was an abundant supply of human subsidies. We found that dog presence negatively affected the consumption of human subsidies by the foxes. We posit that local cultures and religious practices might have played an indirect role in determining the red fox diet and occurrence. Our study recommends that management of anthropogenic subsidies is crucial to keep the wild populations healthy.