The Arctic fox stock in nature reserve Hornstrandir in the West Fjords nearly collapsed this past summer. A multitude of foxes were found dead and very few pairs managed to raise cubs, as stated in a report by the Icelandic Institute of Natural History (NÍ) released last week.
This is the first time that foxes have decreased at such a scale since NÍ first started following the wild animal in Hornstrandir 16 years ago. Fox hunting has not been practiced in the nature reserve since 1995, ruv.is reports.
The number of foxes is also declining nationwide for the first time since the initial count in 1979. In the autumn of 2007 their number peaked at eight times the stock size of 1979 after a 30-year period of continued growth. In 2013 their estimated number was 11,000.
The reason for this development is unknown but is believed to be connected to changes in the climate, food availability, animal health and even outside pollution, NÍ concludes.
Hunters have reported an increase in sterile vixens in South Iceland, fewer burrows in North and South Iceland and variation in cub sizes in West Iceland, which indicates unstable or fewer food sources.
The Arctic fox is the only wild terrestrial mammal native to Iceland, that is, the only mammal that arrived before man, approximately 10,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age.