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Agonistic behavior between introduced beaver (Castor canadensis) and endemic culpeo fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus lycoides) in Tierra del Fuego Island and implications

Abstract

Over the last 70 years, introduced beavers (Castor canadensis) have been successful in establishing and modifying the landscape of southernmost Patagonia. Habitat availability and lack of large carnivorous predators have contributed to this success. The Fuegian culpeo fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus lycoides) is an endangered subspecies and the largest native predator found in Tierra del Fuego Island. The predatory behavior of a culpeo towards a beaver was studied by analyzing a video footage recovered by tourists, and consumption of beaver was documented with camera traps. An ethogram of the predatory behavior sequence was developed and true durations and percentage of time allocated to each behavior were analyzed. The “capture” and “watch” behaviors had the highest durations within the predatory sequence (61.83 and 42.61 s, respectively), while “rest” was the most frequent maintenance behavior observed (93.82 s). The culpeo may provide the only natural population control for beavers, although up to date, there is no evidence to confirm this ecological role. Based upon photos from camera traps, we confirm the occurrence of fox feeding on beavers. This is the first description of the stages of the interaction between a Fuegian culpeo fox and a North American beaver under natural conditions. We discuss the ecological implications of this interaction.

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Acknowledgements

We are indebted to Pablo Javier di Leo and Mónica Cecilia Mallino di Leo, who filmed the footage and generously delivered it to a park ranger. Also, we would like to thank Julio Escobar for sharing his vast field experience on introduced beavers. We are grateful to Bárbara Saavedra, Alejandro Vila, Alejandro Kush, and Custodio Millán for their help all along. We acknowledge faithful illustrations from Rodrigo Verdugo. Finally, we appreciate the support from the Wildlife Conservation Society Chile and logistic assistance from Karukinka Park.

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Correspondence to Cristóbal Briceño.

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Appendix

Appendix

An adult Fuegian fox trots with a full adult muskrat in its muzzle, probably recently caught. Taken on a camera trap on the 28th of May of 2017 in Tierra del Fuego Island (54° 12′ 12″S, 68° 77′ 18″W)

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Tadich, T.A., Novaro, A.J., Kunzle, P. et al. Agonistic behavior between introduced beaver (Castor canadensis) and endemic culpeo fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus lycoides) in Tierra del Fuego Island and implications. acta ethol 21, 29–34 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-017-0278-z

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Keywords

  • Conservation implications
  • Culpeo attack
  • Endangered fox
  • Invasive species
  • Patagonia
  • Predatory behavior