The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is generally considered a pest species, especially in rural habitats where it is perceived as a predator of livestock and game species. In many countries, population-control programs are carried out to prevent predation on species of human concern. However, most of these programs occur without an analysis of the real fox impact. This study analyzed the diet of red foxes inhabiting a farmland area characterized by the presence of both free-ranging livestock and game species. We analyzed a total of 147 scats belonging to 32 food samples. Invertebrates represented the main food category (recorded on 66% of food samples), followed by fruit and small mammals, both recorded on 59% of food samples. The seasonal variation of the diet matched the availability of food resources, as demonstrated by the outcome of small mammal trapping activity in the area. The livestock consumption regarded almost exclusively carrions, since only hair of adult sheep were recorded with high frequency. Wild boar hair were found in two food samples, lamb and hare hair were found in only one. Our study showed an easy protocol to assess the role of red fox as a predator of livestock and game species before planning management actions. In the analyzed farmland, for instance, a population-control program should not be justified despite the presence of lambs, piglets, hares and pheasants.
Russian Journal of Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 5, 2014
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