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Pseudalopex fulvipes

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA CANIDAE

Scientific Name: Pseudalopex fulvipes
Species Authority: (Martin, 1837)
Common Name/s:
English Darwin's Fox
Spanish Zorro De Chiloé, Zorro Chilote, Zorro De Darwin
Synonym/s:
Lycalopex fulvipes (Martin, 1837)
Taxonomic Notes: Included in the genus Lycalopex by Wozencraft (2005), but here retained in Pseudalopex.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered C2a(ii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Jiménez, J.E., Lucherini, M. & Novaro, A.J.
Reviewer/s: Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)
Justification:
Darwin's Fox is endemic to Chile. It has a disjunct distribution with two subpopulations: the species occurs on most of Chiloé Island (about 200 km long x 62 km wide), especially where forest remains, with the exception of the most populated areas on the eastern and north-eastern parts; on mainland Chile, a small subpopulation has been observed since 1975 in Nahuelbuta National Park. It appears that Darwin's Foxes are restricted to the park and the native forest surrounding the park. This park, only 68.3 km² in size, is a small habitat island of highland forest surrounded by degraded farmlands and plantations of exotic trees. This subpopulation is located about 600 km north of the island population and, to date, no other subpopulations have been found in the remaining forest in between.

Total population size is less than 250 mature individuals with at least 90% of the population occurring in one subpopulation (Chiloé Island). Although the species is protected in Nahuelbuta National Park, substantial mortality sources exist when foxes move to lower, unprotected private areas in search of milder conditions during the winter. Some foxes even breed in these areas. The presence of dogs in the park may be the greatest conservation threat in the form of potential vectors of disease or direct attack. On Chiloé Island, Chiloé National Park has a sizable fox population; however, foxes also live in the surrounding areas, where substantial forest cover remains. These latter areas are vulnerable and continuously subjected to logging, forest fragmentation, and poaching by locals. In addition, being naive towards people places the foxes at risk when in contact with humans. If current relaxed attitudes continue in Nahuelbuta National Park, Chiloé National Park may be the only long-term safe area for the Darwin's Fox.
History:
2004 Critically Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Darwin's Fox is endemic to Chile. It has a disjunct distribution with two populations: one found in the forests of Chiloé Island (42°S, 74°W), and another on the coastal mountains in Nahuelbuta National Park of mainland Chile (37°45'S, 73°00'W).

Vila et al. (2004) found evidence for what may be a third population at Punta Chanchan, north of Valdivia.
Countries:
Native:
Chile (Los Lagos)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are few records for the species. Charles Darwin collected the first specimen in 1834 from the south-eastern end of Chiloé Island. Osgood (1943) later captured it at the mouth of the Inio River, on the southern shore of the same island. On the Pacific shore of Chiloé, the species has been trapped on Playa Tricolor (in June 1999, J.E. Jiménez, pers. obs.) and intensively monitored since November 2001 at Ahuenco; on the Cordillera del Piuché, the fox has been monitored since 1989 (Jiménez et al. 1990). On the northern part of Chiloé Island, one fox was captured in November 1999 and at Tepuhueico, on the central part, two adults were observed in June 2002 (J.E. Jiménez, pers. obs.). On the north-western part of the same island, a local recently killed a female and her two cubs; and there have been additional sightings in the same area (C. Muñoz pers. comm.). Thus, Darwin's Fox occurs on most of Chiloé Island (about 200 km long x 62 km wide), especially where forest remains, with the exception of the most populated areas on the eastern and north-eastern parts.

On mainland Chile, Jaime Jiménez has observed a small population since 1975 in Nahuelbuta National Park; this population was first reported to science in the early 1990s (Medel et al. 1990). It appears that Darwin's Foxes are restricted to the park and the native forest surrounding the park (McMahon et al. 1999). This park, only 68.3 km² in size, is a small habitat island of highland forest surrounded by degraded farmlands and plantations of exotic trees (Greer 1966). This population is located about 600 km north of the island population and, to date, no other populations have been found in the remaining forest in between (W.E. Johnson pers. comm.).

Darwin's Fox was reported to be scarce and restricted to the southern end of Chiloé Island (Osgood 1943). The comparison of such older accounts (reporting the scarcity of Darwin's fox), with recent repeated observations, conveys the impression that the Darwin's Fox has increased in abundance, although this might simply be a sampling bias.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Darwin's Fox is generally believed to be a forest obligate species found only in southern temperate rainforests (Jaksic et al. 1990; Medel et al. 1990). Recent research on Chiloé, based on trapping and telemetry data on a disturbance gradient, indicates that, in decreasing order, foxes use old-growth forest followed by secondary forest followed by pastures and openings (Jiménez 2000). Although variable among individuals, about 70% of their home ranges comprised old-growth forest. However, compared with the amount available, foxes preferred secondary forest and avoided old growth. Selection of openings varied among individuals. The forest is of Valdivian type, comprising a few native conifers and several species of broad-leaved evergreen species, and dominated by fruit-bearing trees of the Mirtaceae family. This forest is dense, with different strata and very moist all year round (Jiménez et al. 1990).
On the Pacific coast of Chiloé, Darwin's Fox lives in a fragmented environment of coastal sand dunes mixed with dense evergreen forest. On the northern part of the island, Darwin's Fox uses a relatively flat, but fragmented landscape of broad-leaf forest and dairy cow pastures. Research on the mainland population supports the notion of the species using primarily dense forest (Jaksic et al. 1990; Jiménez et al. 1990). Capture and telemetry data indicate that animals are found in dense Araucaria-Nothofagus forest, open Nothofagus forest and open pasture with decreasing frequency (McMahon et al. 1999). The forest comprises mainly monkey-puzzle trees (Araucaria araucania) and five species of southern beech (Nothofagus spp.), one of which is non-deciduous.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although the species is protected in Nahuelbuta National Park, substantial mortality sources exist when foxes move to lower, unprotected private areas in search of milder conditions during the winter. Some foxes even breed in these areas. This is one of the reasons why it is recommended that this park be expanded to secure buffer areas for the foxes that use these unprotected ranges (McMahon et al. 1999).

The presence of dogs in the park may be the greatest conservation threat in the form of potential vectors of disease or direct attack. There is a common practice to have unleashed dogs both on Chiloé and in Nahuelbuta; these have been caught within foxes' ranges in the forest. Although dogs are prohibited in the national park, visitors are often allowed in with their dogs that are then let loose in the park. There has been one documented account of a visitor's dog attacking a female fox while she was nursing her two pups (E. McMahon, pers. obs.). In addition, local dogs from the surrounding farms are often brought in by their owners in search of their cattle or while gathering Araucaria seeds in the autumn. Park rangers even maintain dogs within the park, and the park administrator's dog killed a guiña in the park. Being relatively naive towards people and their dogs is seen as non-adaptive behaviour in this species' interactions with humans.

The island population appears to be relatively safe by being protected in Chiloé National Park. This 430 km² protected area encompasses most of the still untouched rainforest of the island. Although the park appears to have a sizable fox population, foxes also live in the surrounding areas, where substantial forest cover remains. These latter areas are vulnerable and continuously subjected to logging, forest fragmentation, and poaching by locals. In addition, being naive towards people places the foxes at risk when in contact with humans. If current relaxed attitudes continue in Nahuelbuta National Park, Chiloé National Park may be the only long-term safe area for the Darwin's Fox.

No commercial use. However, captive animals have been kept illegally as pets on Chiloé Island (Jiménez, pers. obs).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included on CITES - Appendix II (as Lycalopex fulvipes). Protected by Chilean law since 1929 (Iriarte and Jaksic 1986), but enforcement is not always possible and some poaching occurs.

Nahuelbuta National Park (IX Administrative Region) protects the mainland population in ca. 68 km²; Chiloé National Park (X Admistrative Region) protects the island population in ca. 430 km².

The Temuco Zoo held a male and a female until their release in October 2000 on Chiloé. No known specimens are kept elsewhere.

Gaps in Knowledge
A high priority would be to conduct intensive searches for other populations between Nahuelbuta and Chiloé. There are many remote pockets that are little explored where isolated populations could still be found.

The behavioural ecology of a forest-specialist or forest-dependent species is of utmost interest. Research topics to be explored include: social behaviour (e.g., tolerance to conspecifics), large home range overlaps, presence of helpers, and small litter sizes. In addition, little is known as concerns population dynamics, dispersal behaviour, and metapopulation structure.

Genetic aspects, including levels of inbreeding and inbreeding depression, and past population bottlenecks, are little known and important for future management.

Impacts of and resilience to human-related disturbances, the effects of free-ranging dogs, the foxes ecological naiveté to people, and forest disappearance and fragmentation are all of interest for fox survival. The impact of habitat loss (through forest conversion) on fox populations is also of interest. At least in Chiloé, habitat disturbance per se seems to play little, if any, role in population dynamics. On the mainland, however, fragmentation might increase risk of predation by other native predators.

Considering the potential disease threat posed by domestic dogs, an investigation into diseases and pathogens (and other allied mortality causes) is crucial.

If Darwin's Fox is so closely related to the Sechuran Fox of southern Peru as the circumstantial evidence suggests, then how did the two species diverge and became separated? These two ranges have been separated by the Atacama Desert for a long time. Exploring this question, in connection with other puzzling biogeographical patterns, could provide evidence to better understand canid speciation and species interactions.
Citation: Jiménez, J.E., Lucherini, M. & Novaro, A.J. 2008. Pseudalopex fulvipes. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 17 April 2014.
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