Open Access

A new population of Darwin's fox (Lycalopex fulvipes) in the Valdivian Coastal Range

  • Ariel A Farias1, 2Email author,
  • Maximiliano A Sepúlveda1, 3,
  • Eduardo A Silva-Rodríguez4,
  • Antonieta Eguren5, 6,
  • Danilo González8,
  • Natalia I Jordán1,
  • Erwin Ovando8,
  • Paulina Stowhas7 and
  • Gabriella L Svensson1
Contributed equally
Revista Chilena de Historia Natural201487:3

DOI: 10.1186/0717-6317-87-3

Received: 4 October 2013

Accepted: 22 November 2013

Published: 26 March 2014

Findings

Darwin's fox (Lycalopex fulvipes Martin, 1837) is an endemic of the temperate forests of the Coastal Range of southern Chile, that was reported by Charles Darwin in 1834 in southern Chiloé Island (42° S, 74° W; Martin 1837). Initially known exclusively from that island, it was considered both an insular subspecies of the chilla fox (Lycalopex griseus Gray, 1837) (Housse 1953; Clutton-Brock et al. 1976) and a valid species (Martin 1837; Gay 1947; Osgood 1943). In 1990, a mainland population was reported at Nahuelbuta National Park (ca. 450 km north of Chiloé Island, 37° 47′ S, 72° 59′ W; Figure 1a) in sympatry with the chilla and culpeo foxes (Lycalopex culpaeus Molina, 1782) (Jaksic et al. 1990; Medel et al. 1990; Jiménez et al. 1991). This supported its status as a valid species, later confirmed through genetic studies (Yahnke et al. 1996). Though this canid uses diverse habitat types, it is highly associated with native forest (Medel et al. 1990; Jiménez et al. 1991; Jiménez 2007). The current population size is not precisely known, but it has been estimated to be fewer than 600 individuals, 90% of them on Chiloé Island (Jiménez and McMahon 2004; Jiménez et al. 2008). In light of its small population size and the vulnerability of remaining populations, Darwin's fox was classified as Critically Endangered (CR: C2a (ii); cf. IUCN 2012). The discontinuous distribution of Darwin's fox, however, raised questions regarding the existence of other populations in under-explored intermediate areas (e.g., Vilá et al. 2004; Jiménez et al. 2008). Recently, Vilá et al. (2004) genetically identified a Darwin's fox skin from Punta Chanchán (39° 21′ S, 73° 14′ W) and reported possible sightings by local people there and at Fundo Chaihuín (40° 01′ S, 73° 25′ W), but failed to find evidence of living individuals. An additional dead individual was reported from the nearby locality of Lastarria (Gorbea district, 39° 11′ S, 72° 6′ W; D'Elía et al. 2013). These localities are halfway between the previously known populations (Figure 1a), suggesting that indeed the range is less discontinuous than was previously suspected.
Figure 1

Landscape context of the known distribution of Darwin's fox ( Lycalopex fulvipes ), highlighting the new records (stars). Shaded areas represent the current distribution of native temperate forests. (a) Major localities cited in the text. (b) Detail of the new localities: ONC, Oncol Park; ACP, Alerce Costero National Park; VCR, Valdivian Coastal Reserve; segmented lines, limits of the protected areas. (c, d, e) Photographs obtained from each protected area.

Here we report camera-trap (Bushnell Trophy Cam, Bushnell Corporation, Overland Park, KS, USA) records of Darwin's foxes in three different protected areas in Los Ríos region, which indeed confirm the existence of an intermediate population (Figure 1b,c). These records were obtained as part of two independent studies and a monitoring program. One of the studies and the monitoring program were conducted in the Valdivian Coastal Reserve (VCR; 40° 02′ S, 73° 35′ W; 50,250 ha; Figure 1b) during February to May 2012 and throughout 2012, respectively. The third study surveyed two protected areas (Figure 1b): Oncol Park (ONC; 39° 42′ S, 73° 18′ W; 753 ha; March to May 2012) and Alerce Costero National Park (ACP; 39° 59′ S, 73° 28′ W; 24,694 ha; December 2012 to March 2013).

We recorded Darwin's fox in nine different camera traps (i.e., one or more photos per camera trap), three in each protected area (Figure 1c,d,e). Records from ONC came from transects within the park or close to its border, whereas records from ACP came from the highest elevation within the park. In all these cases, photos were obtained in areas of either old-growth forest or dense understory, with cameras that were baited with raw chicken and commercial lures (Minnesota Brand Bobcat Urine, Caven's Violator-7 and Terminator lures; Minnesota Trapline Products Inc., Pennock, MN, USA). All records from the VCR came from cameras set in an area located close to ACP, including native forests and eucalyptus plantations with dense understory (Figure 1b). We did not use lures in the VCR.

Our records add to the skin reported from Punta Chanchán (Vilá et al. 2004) and the parallel report of a dead individual at the nearby locality of Lastarria (D'Elía et al. 2013), confirming the current presence of Darwin's fox in the area and suggesting a wide distribution of Darwin's fox throughout the Coastal Range (Yahnke et al. 1996; Vilá et al. 2004). Furthermore, the records from Alerce Costero National Park and Valdivian Coastal Reserve are in the northern extreme of a forested corridor that extends southwards almost continuously for ca. 150 km, covering an area slightly smaller than that occupied by similar forests in Chiloé Island (Figure 1a) where the main population is located. This opens the possibility that the distribution and population size of this canid could be significantly larger than previously estimated. Confirmation of a widespread distribution and population larger than the previous estimate of ca. 600 individuals for Darwin's fox could require a reassessment of the conservation status (Jiménez and McMahon 2004; IUCN 2012). Further, the current presence of Darwin's fox in the Valdivian Coastal Range, and at the locality of Lastarria (D'Elía et al. 2013), is crucial given that a significant part of this area is currently under protection by the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, the Alerce Costero National Park, Oncol Park and other smaller private initiatives. Nevertheless, the area is not free of anthropogenic threats, such as the projected extension of the coastal highway (Wilson et al. 2005), conflicts between wild carnivores and local communities (Stowhas 2012), free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758) (Silva-Rodríguez and Sieving 2012; Sepúlveda et al. (2014a)), and the risk of canine distemper virus (Sepúlveda et al. (2014b)). In consequence, it is necessary to conduct further studies to clarify the actual conservation status of the newly discovered population of Darwin's fox.

Notes

Declarations

Acknowledgements

Grant FONDECYT-11110027 to AAF funded the research at PONC and PNAC, and the Wildlife Without Borders Program (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) and Panthera Foundation funded the work at VCR. CONAF and Forestal Valdivia provided logistic support and access permits. The Nature Conservancy (L. Pezoa, A. Almonacid) provided logistic support at RCV. Park rangers O. Ponce and G. Ponce (VCR) and R. Cárdenas (ACP), along with S. Castillo, N. Glade, G. Carrasco, T. Saratscheff, F. Fuentes, P. Zucolillo, M. Duclos, F. Alfaro, A. Sepúlveda, and A. Silva, assisted in the fieldwork. J. Jiménez, A. Iriarte, and D. Moreira kindly agreed to peer-review our pictures. We thank M. Soto-Gamboa who provided valuable support to our work. We thank the comments by P. Feinsinger and A. Sigerson that helped improve the manuscript.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
(2)
Centro de Investigación e Innovación para el Cambio Climático (CIICC), Universidad Santo Tomás
(3)
College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota
(4)
Departamento de Ecología y Biodiversidad, Facultad de Ecología y Recursos Naturales, Universidad Andrés Bello
(5)
Center for African Studies, University of Florida
(6)
Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida
(7)
(8)
Reserva Costera Valdiviana, The Nature Conservancy

References

  1. Clutton-Brock J, Corbet GB, Hills M: A review of the family Canidae with a classification by numerical methods. Bull British Museum (Nat History). Zool 1976, 29: 117–199.Google Scholar
  2. D'elía G, Ortloff A, Sánchez P, Guiñez B, Varas V: A new geographic record of the endangered Darwin's fox Lycalopex fulvipes (Carnivora: Canidae): filling the distributional gap. Rev Chil Hist Nat 2013, 86: 485–488. 10.4067/S0716-078X2013000400010View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  3. Gay C: Historia Física y Política de Chile: Según Documentos Adquiridos en Esta República Durante Doce Años de Residencia en Ella y Publicada Bajo los Auspicios del Supremo Gobierno. Zoología. Santiago, Chile: El Autor; 1947.Google Scholar
  4. Housse R: Animales Salvajes de Chile en su Clasificación Moderna: su Vida y sus Costumbres. Chile, Santiago: Ediciones de la Universidad de; 1953.Google Scholar
  5. IUCN: IUCN red list categories and criteria, version 3.1. 2nd edition. Gland: IUCN; 2012.Google Scholar
  6. Jaksic FM, Jiménez JE, Medel RG, Marquet PA: Habitat and diet of Darwin's fox ( Pseudalopex fulvipes ) on the Chilean mainland. J Mammal 1990, 71: 246–248. 10.2307/1382176View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  7. Jiménez JE: Ecology of a coastal population of the critically endangered Darwin's fox ( Pseudalopex fulvipes ) on Chiloé Island, southern Chile. J Zool 2007, 271: 63–77. 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00218.xView ArticleGoogle Scholar
  8. Jiménez JE, Mcmahon E: Darwin's fox, Pseudalopex fulvipes . In Canids: foxes, wolves, jackals and dogs. Status survey and conservation action plan. Edited by: Sillero-Zubiri C, Hoffman M, Macdonald DW. Gland: IUCN; 2004:50–55.Google Scholar
  9. Jiménez JE, Marquet PA, Medel RG, Jaksic FM: Comparative ecology of Darwin's fox ( Pseudalopex fulvipes ) in mainland and island settings of southern Chile. Rev Chil Hist Nat 1991, 63: 177–186.Google Scholar
  10. Jiménez JE, Lucherini M, Novaro AJ: Pseudalopex fulvipes. IUCN 2013. IUCN red list of threatened species 2008. Version 2013.1. . Accessed 24 Sept 2013 http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41586/0Google Scholar
  11. Martin W: Observations upon a new fox from Mr. Darwin's collection ( Vulpes fulvipes ). Proc Zool Soc London 1837, 5: 11–12.Google Scholar
  12. Medel RG, Jiménez JE, Yáñez JL, Armesto JJ, Jaksic FM: Discovery of a continental population of the rare Darwin's fox, Dusicyon fulvipes (Martin 1837) in Chile. Biol Conserv 1990, 51: 71–77. 10.1016/0006-3207(90)90033-LView ArticleGoogle Scholar
  13. Osgood WH: The mammals of Chile. Field Museum Nat History Zool Series 1943, 30: 1–268.Google Scholar
  14. Sepúlveda MA, Singer RS, Silva-Rodríguez E, Stowhas P, Pelican K: Domestic dogs in rural communities around protected areas: conservation problem or conflict solution? PLoS ONE 2014a,9(1):e86152. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086152 10.1371/journal.pone.0086152View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  15. Sepúlveda MA, Singer RS, Silva-Rodríguez E, Eguren A, Stowhas P, Pelican K: Invasive American mink: linking pathogen risk between domestic and endangered carnivores. EcoHealth 2014b. doi:10.1007/s10393–014–0917-zGoogle Scholar
  16. Silva-Rodríguez EA, Sieving KE: Domestic dogs shape the landscape-scale distribution of a threatened forest ungulate. Biol Conserv 2012, 150: 103–110. 10.1016/j.biocon.2012.03.008View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  17. Stowhas P DVM thesis. In Conflicto Entre Carnívoros Silvestres y Campesinos en el sur de Chile. Santiago, Chile: Universidad Mayor; 2012.Google Scholar
  18. Vilá C, Leonard JA, Iriarte A, O'brien SJ, Johnson WE, Wayne RK: Detecting the vanishing populations of the highly endangered Darwin's fox, Pseudalopex fulvipes . Anim Conserv 2004, 7: 147–153. 10.1017/S1367943004001271View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  19. Wilson K, Newton A, Echeverria C, Weston C, Burgman M: A vulnerability analysis of the temperate forests of south central Chile. Biol Conserv 2005, 122: 9–21. 10.1016/j.biocon.2004.06.015View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  20. Yahnke CJ, Johnson WE, Geffen E, Smith D, Hertel F, Roy MS, Bonacic CF, Fuller TK, Van Valkenburgh B, Wayne RK: Darwin's fox: a distinct endangered species in a vanishing habitat. Conserv Biol 1996, 10: 366–375. 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1996.10020366.xView ArticleGoogle Scholar

Copyright

© Farias et al.; licensee Springer. 2014

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.

Advertisement