SGS LTER hosts Danish researchers

Network News Spring 2010, Vol. 23 No. 1
Site News

Two students from the University of Copenhagen arrived early in February to continue investigation of swift fox on the shortgrass steppe in Colorado.  Anne Petersen and Louise Bach were looking at communication between foxes by manipulating chemical scents in fox latrines. 

Prior work by Safi Darden documented swift fox behavior at latrines and proposed that this behavior communicated not only territorial boundaries, but also potentially reproductive state.  By altering the scents in the latrines, Bach and Peterson hoped to provoke territorial behavior, such as over-marking, by the resident fox. 

Darden and several subsequent researchers from the lab of Torben Dabelsteen at the University of Copenhagen have attached radio collars to swift foxes, tracked them through the seasons, and mapped their home territories.  Bach and Peterson subsequently used radio telemetry to locate individuals and their dens.  Our very snowy winter made this more difficult than usual and the first fox they found had succumbed to the rough winter.  Thereafter, they continued monitoring several dens in the hope that they would collect enough data for their theses before returning to Denmark in April.

During their stay Louise and Anne joined in the winter rabbit count at the Shortgrass Steppe LTER.  Although they are used to cold winters and snow in Copenhagen, they were not prepared for four hours in the back of a pickup truck in the dead of a windy, Colorado winter night.