The red fox was discovered by two fishermen as they were hiking up in the mountains, and only reluctantly withdrew from the Arctic fox’s carcass when they arrived. Red foxes are normally about twice the size of their endangered relative, but are generally slower, particularly over snowy territory.
“This is a unique observation!” Nina Eide, a fox researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), said in a statement. “We know that the red fox and Arctic fox are competitors,and that the red fox can kill the Arctic fox, but it's rare we get it documented.”
According to Eide it is very unusual for animals at the same level in the food chain to prey on one another because of the risk the attacker becomes infected by the parasites of its victim.
“We sometimes find bite marks that looks as if they come from red foxes, but then it is only an assumption that the arctic fox was killed by red foxes,” Eide said.
Eide this week started as manager of Ecofunc, a new research project looking at how climate change and other environmental factors are affecting the biological diversity of mountain regions.
“We shall inter alia examine the interactions between these predators at the top of the food chain. Rare sightings like this are iimportant to collect information about,” she said.
Red foxes are increasingly competing with Arctic foxes in their habitat. Photo: Jan Ove Gjershaug / NINA.