Editor's choice January/February 2022Submitted by editor on 16 February 2022. Get the paper!
Our first editor’s choice this year is the article by Willebrand et al.: “Declining survival rates of red foxes during the first outbreak of sarcoptic mange in Sweden”
This paper reports on the demographic consequences of an epidemic on a wildlife population, based on impressively large datasets and time series. As the authors point out, demographic analyses of vectors are important for understanding wildlife disease. However, demography of wildlife is notoriously difficult to study, even in a widely distributed and common species like the red fox. The red fox is of major importance as a vector for zoonotic diseases, including rabies and alveolar echinococcosis, and, particularly in human dominated landscapes free of large carnivores, it is a major predator. Yet, few details on fox demography are available.
Willebrand et al. cleverly made use of hunting statistics, long-term data on prevalence of sarcoptic mange, survival estimates from mark–recovery data and fecundity data from literature to project the decline of the Swedish fox population, which was reduced by almost ninety percent, but recovered to pre-mange densities in less than 10 years.
This paper contributes to understanding the population-level impacts of disease. Further, the study illustrates the importance of long-term population monitoring in combination with large-scale field-experiments for improving wildlife management.
Yours sincerely, Ilse Storch