Dietary and Reproductive Responses of Arctic Foxes to Changes in Small Rodent Abundance
Between 1988 and 1995, dens in three adjacent arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) territories were monitored in an alpine environment in south-central Norway (the Snøhetta plateau). A total of 675 scats were collected at dens in both winter and summer, and the numbers of resident adults and pups at emergence were counted each summer. Small rodents (mainly Lemmus sp. and Microtus sp.) were the most frequently consumed prey and made up the greatest volume within scats, in all seasons and at all stages of the rodent cycle. Small rodents were followed in frequency by reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), hares (Lepus timidus), birds, and vegetation. Birds and vegetation were more common in the summer diet than in the winter diet, reflecting their seasonal availability. The relative volume of reindeer and birds in the diet decreased with increasing rodent abundance. Increased pup production was associated with years of high rodent abundance and a high occurrence of rodents in the diet. Adult numbers were not associated with rodent abundance.