|Island fox scat with native fruit seeds|
The findings from this study, however, were done before multi-year drought impacted vegetation across California and on several islands. Have island foxes shifted their diet to other foods to make-up for the decreased availability of some plant foods or prey species?
|Island fox scat with insect exoskeleton remnants|
In addition to scat, whisker samples can provide evidence of what an island fox has eaten over several months. Whiskers are specialized hairs that grow over an extended amount of time. Trimming an inch or two off the end of a whisker, can provide researchers with information on what a specific individual fox has been eating. Isotopes laid down in the hair shaft document the kinds of proteins and plant matter consumed.
While we don't think of island foxes eating marine animals, during a limited test study, one individual island fox was found to have isotope markers that signaled it was eating marine proteins, fish or crustaceans. Was this individual unusual?
Research on island fox diet is an on-going project. Biologists in the field counting island foxes on the northern islands were taking whisker samples this year.
Whether it is scat or whisker samples, it is time to add a new chapter to research on island fox diet.