Mercury levels in foxes living close to the seashore are up to ten times higher than in foxes living inland.
These are the findings of an international study which Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir, doctoral student in biology at the University of Iceland, took part in, visir.is reports.
“We have to stop any further mercury pollution in the sea,” Ester told Fréttablaðið, but she is also manager of the Arctic Fox Centre in the Westfjords. “It’s not only foxes that feed on food from the sea, but also humans.”
The study shows that foxes that thrive by the seaside take in a dangerous amount of mercury with their nourishment.
“Foxes don’t live very long, the oldest ones that we have found were around 11 years old but 80% of those we did test were less than one years old. It’s shocking to find that there’s such high level of pollution in animals who don’t reach very old age,” Ester said.
She added that further research is required as it is speculated that mercury pollution is the reason why foxes in the Mednyi archipelago, between Russia and Alaska, are so poorly. “The foxes there have very low life expectancy and the state of their fur is bad. They are being examined further to see if they have other symptoms.” Ester said that the state of the foxes in Iceland was not as bad, yet.
“Still, we come across foxes that have little or no fur. It is often blamed on fungal infection but I’d like to research whether the mercury pollution is to blame.”