Dog poo forms a significant part of foxes' diet
Dog poo forms a significant part of the diet of red foxes living in pine forests in the Scottish Highlands, a study has revealed.
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Researchers found that dog faeces has a calorific content similar to foxes' wild prey.
But it is much easier to "hunt" - with the foxes feeding on it especially when wild prey is scarce.
The study said it was unprecedented for one species to eat the faeces of another in such large quantities.
It found that domestic dog DNA was the second most frequent species found in fox stool samples, at about 40%.
Several theories were considered as to why this was the case, including a possible confusion between fox and dog DNA since the two are closely related.
Important food source
But the researchers ultimately concluded that dog poo had become an important food source for foxes to fall back on in times of scarcity.
They said that dog faeces may benefit foxes over their competitors or prey species - just as bird feeders in gardens benefit some species of birds while others are displaced.
In addition, the availability of dog faeces and its consumption by wild animals creates risks of disease and parasite transmission, and of introducing new pathogens.
It also highlights how the behaviour of foxes living in the pine forests of the Cairngorms can be affected by visits from humans and their pets - and in particular how important it was for dog walkers to properly dispose of dog faeces.