Ruppell’s fox movement and spatial behavior are influenced by topography and human activity

Adi Barocas*, Reuven Hefner, Michal Ucko, Benny Shalmon, Noam Leader, Eli Geffen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Global climatic processes have driven an expansion of arid environments, as well as the human populations that depend on these biomes. Human habitation can influence desert ecosystems directly through changes in land use and indirectly through the introduction of alien species that compete with locally adapted fauna. Native species can respond to these processes by spatial or temporal avoidance. Ruppell’s fox is a desert-adapted species inhabiting flat, rocky arid areas that feeds mainly on invertebrates and rodents. We used location data and step selection functions to study the space use of a population in southern Israel. We hypothesized that Ruppell’s fox movement would be influenced by topography due to preference for creeks, where insects and rodents are available, and by human infrastructure as the presence of humans, vehicles and associated animals may induce a fear effect on native species. Ruppell’s fox habitat selection was seasonal. During the dry season, foxes showed preference for flatter areas and creek bottoms and avoided paved roads. During the rainy season, foxes avoided less- trafficked dirt roads. These patterns were likely a consequence of increased territoriality due to denning in the colder season and reduced availability of insects in the dry season. Avoidance of paved and dirt roads may be explained by fear of human presence and perception of risk due to the use of linear features by larger carnivores, such as wolves and red foxes. Our results suggest that current protected, remote and uninhabited areas have an elevated value for the persistence of Ruppell’s fox populations. We recommend limitation of vehicle movement within current reserves and continued monitoring of population trends for this little studied carnivore.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1345-1357
Number of pages13
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Volume31
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Anthropogenic activity
  • Carnivores
  • Resource selection
  • Vulpes rueppelii

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