Habitat use and ranging behaviour of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in a Mediterranean rural area: is shelter availability a key factor?

Authors

  • M. Lucherini,

    1. Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ethology and Behavioural Ecology Group, University of Siena, Via P. A. Mattioli 4, 53100 Siena, Italy
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  • S. Lovari,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ethology and Behavioural Ecology Group, University of Siena, Via P. A. Mattioli 4, 53100 Siena, Italy
      *To whom correspondence should be addressed
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  • G. Crema

    1. Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ethology and Behavioural Ecology Group, University of Siena, Via P. A. Mattioli 4, 53100 Siena, Italy
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    • **Estación Biológica de Doñana, Pabellón del Perú, 41013 Sevilla, Spain


*To whom correspondence should be addressed

Abstract

Factors affecting activity, habitat use, and home-range size of the red fox were analysed in a highly heterogeneous rural environment. Individual differences in behaviour were used to test our hypotheses. Food habits tended to depend on food availability, which, in turn, was mainly influenced by temperature. Diet was highly heterogeneous. Insects, e.g. grasshoppers and beetles, and cultivated fruits were the staple of the diet, but no diet component stood out clearly from all others. For an opportunistic species such as the fox, habitat heterogeneity may be the main factor underlying a wide trophic niche. All foxes selected the vineyard as part of their home ranges, whereas they preferred for activity the abandoned olive-yard among the habitats of their home ranges. Human intolerance of foxes affects their pattern of activity, habitat selection, and ranging behaviour. Foxes were strongly nocturnal. Cover-rich habitats were preferred for resting and for movements in daylight. Areas under human management were mainly used at night. Selectivity was higher for resting than for activity sites. Variation in home-range size and shape can be influenced not only by the dispersion of the main food patches, but also by the location of shelters

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