Diets of Introduced Predators Using Stable Isotopes and Stomach Contents



ABSTRACT  In a study of predation on ground-nesting birds at South San Francisco Bay (South Bay), California, USA, we analyzed stomach contents and stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to identify commonly consumed prey. We obtained the stomach contents from 206 nonnative red foxes (Vulpes vulpes regalis) collected in the South Bay area and Monterey County during 1995–2001 and from 68 feral cats (Felis silvestris) from the South Bay area during 2001–2002. We determined prey identity, biomass, and frequency, described seasonal diet trends, and derived an Index of Relative Importance. Avian species were the most frequent prey we found in the stomachs of red foxes from South Bay (61%), whereas small rodents were most frequent for red foxes from Monterey County (62%). Small rodents were the most frequent prey we found in feral cats (63%). Carbon and nitrogen isotopic signatures for foxes supported stomach content findings. However, isotope results indicated that cats received a majority of their energy from a source other than rodents and outside the natural system, which differed from the stomach content analysis. We demonstrated the utility of both stable isotope and stomach content analyses to establish a more complete understanding of predators' diets. This information aids natural resource managers in planning and evaluating future predator-removal programs and increases our understanding of the impacts of nonnative foxes and cats on native species.