Occupancy and diet of the Indian desert fox Vulpes vulpes pusilla in a Prosopis juliflora invaded semi-Arid grassland

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Wildlife Biology


Encroachment by woody invasive plants has been recognized as a major driver of structural change in grasslands ecosystems. The impact of invasive plant-mediated changes on mammalian species from higher trophic levels is relatively less understood. This study aims to understand the impact of woody encroachment on the ecology of a relatively understudied mesopredator, the Indian desert fox Vulpes v. pusilla in a semi-Arid saline grassland ecosystem in Western India. We examined the site occupancy of the Indian desert fox at the landscape level, and den site selection at the micro-habitat scale. We also examined the diet of desert foxes during winter and summer season. We found that at the landscape level the desert fox selects more open Suaeda saline habitats over dense invasive Prosopis juliflora dominated habitats. At the scale of the den, proximity to water and vegetation cover were the main drivers of den site selection. Similar to other arid zone foxes, insects, plant materials and small mammals were the main components of the diet of Indian desert fox. Given its selection of open habitats, invasive shrub encroachment is likely to result in a loss of habitat as well as resources for this species, potentially impacting on the conservation status of this already range-restricted species in India.



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