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Wildlife Conservation on Farmland Volume 2Conflict in the countryside$
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David W. Macdonald and Ruth E. Feber

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198745501

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198745501.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 December 2021

Foxes in the landscape

Foxes in the landscape

ecology and sociality

(p.20) Chapter 2 Foxes in the landscape
Wildlife Conservation on Farmland Volume 2

David W. Macdonald

Patrick Doncaster

Malcolm Newdick

Heribert Hofer

Fiona Mathews

Paul J. Johnson

Oxford University Press

The red fox Vulpes vulpes is found over much of the planet, and with a degree of ecological flexibility which is closely linked to its dietary breadth. Exploration of fox ecology, made possible by advances in technology beginning in the 1970s, has revealed how the sociology of foxes is considerably more complex than was previously thought, and how that complexity is related to their food resource ecology. Foxes live in territories with marked boundaries, most often in pairs where resources are scarce and widely dispersed. But where resources are both abundant and aggregated, family groups occur. In rural Oxfordshire, these family groups consist of a dominant breeding pair with several non-breeding vixens. The sub-dominant vixens assist with feeding and guarding of cubs. Urban foxes have a similar social system, but less stable territories, probably because the urban environment is hazardous and less predictable. Territories are configured to include resource-rich habitats, and even adjacent territories can be comprised of very different habitat types. Patchier territories tend to be smaller. Scat analysis shows variation in territory structure is reflected in very varied diets, and that diet tracks the seasonal abundance of different food sources. At small spatial scales foxes can optimize their use of food patches, and also time their activity to coincide with maximum availability. The extraordinary plasticity of fox ecology complicates attempts to manage them, either to protect stock or for disease control.

Keywords:   red fox, Vulpes vulpes, resource ecology, social system, disease management

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