23.02.2010 - 10:57

Autopsy

Pall Hersteinsson and Ester Rut Unnsteinsdottir at work
Pall Hersteinsson and Ester Rut Unnsteinsdottir at work
The Arctic Fox Centre (AFC) and The Nature History Institute of Westfjords (NAVE) have, in a collaboration with University of Iceland (UNIS), carried out a project to examine the arctic fox population of Westfjords by dissecting hunted foxes in the region.

For decades the municipalities of Westfjords and the Icelandic government have paid a bounty for fox tails. Professor Pall Hersteinsson at UNIS has cooperated with Icelandic foxhunters for over 30 years so that they send him fox carcasses for dissection. Due to the constant hunting effort during this period, Prof. Hersteinson's dissection results have become an extremely valuable data series for monitoring the Arctic fox population.


The fox population density in the Westfjords is the highest in the country; thus one could expect to obtain most fox carcasses from there, into the database. This has not been so in recent years and therefore this project was established. We are offering the municipalities of Westfjords to join effort and begin claiming the whole body of the fox instead of only the tail for a bounty. This also includes a detailed report from the hunter, date and location of hunting, besides further description of hunting method (if bait was used etc.).

The first 38 foxes were collected by Sudavik municipality, in collaboration with the local hunters and they were dissected by Pall Hersteinsson and Ester Rut Unnsteinsdottir in a brand new autopsy facility in NAVE´s house in Bolungarvik, last February.

The information we get from the dissections are, for instance: size, fat reserves, age, fertility, sex ratio, colour morphs, stomach contents etc ...

Of the 38 animals dissected, 34 were of the blue morph, 3 where white and one was beige (a rare colour morph), 27 were males, 2 of which were shot with their mate at a den, one was a road kill. Others had been shot at a bait, on the run, at the coast or at an eider colony.

Since arctic fox hunting is legal and supported by the government of Iceland, the project addresses the need to use the opportunity to get some useful information from the kill, instead of throwing it away and only claiming the tail for the bounty. Here is the chance to use the material we have to get a better understanding on the arctic fox population in the region.

The project partners encourage the other municipalities to participate in the project so that the money spent in hunting can lead to a valuable data sampling to increase knowledge on Icelandic wildlife.

Vefumsjn