(Table 1) Stage of the lemming cycle and nesting parameters of the greater snow geese between 1996-2005, Bylot Island
Resource pulses are common in various ecosystems and often have large impacts on ecosystem functioning. Many animals hoard food during resource pulses, yet how this behaviour affects pulse diffusion through trophic levels is poorly known because of a lack of individual-based studies. Our objective was to examine how the hoarding behaviour of arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) preying on a seasonal pulsed resource (goose eggs) was affected by annual and seasonal changes in resource availability. We monitored foraging behaviour of foxes in a greater snow goose (Chen caerulescens atlanticus) colony during 8 nesting seasons that covered 2 lemming cycles. The number of goose eggs taken and cached per hour by foxes declined 6-fold from laying to hatching, while the proportion of eggs cached remained constant. In contrast, the proportion of eggs cached by foxes fluctuated in response to the annual lemming cycle independently of the seasonal pulse of goose eggs. Foxes cached the majority of eggs taken (> 90%) when lemming abundance was high or moderate but only 40% during the low phase of the cycle. This likely occurred because foxes consumed a greater proportion of goose eggs to fulfill their energy requirement at low lemming abundance. Our study clearly illustrates a behavioural mechanism that extends the energetic benefits of a resource pulse. The hoarding behaviour of the main predator enhances the allochthonous nutrients input brought by migrating birds from the south into the arctic terrestrial ecosystem. This could increase average predator density and promote indirect interactions among prey.