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Dispersal Patterns of Red Foxes Relative to Population Density

Management Implications

Red fox dispersal serves to equalize fox densities over large areas, and our data show that dispersal is a strong phenomenon over a wide range of population densities. Thus, managers concerned about maintaining annual fox populations in areas subject to localized heavy harvest need not be overly anxious. Annual harvests in localized areas in 1 or more years likely will have little effect on population size in subsequent years. Because foxes are major predators of upland game and waterfowl, and they potentially are important in the spread of some epizootics, there is interest in reducing fox populations in local areas. Encouraging greater harvests during autumn and winter, when fox pelts are prime, is a more acceptable way to reduce populations than conducting fox control in spring, because of the greater use made of the autumn and winter pelts. However, because large numbers of foxes disperse during October through January, and possibly later, efforts to substantially reduce spring populations by even the most ambitious removal efforts during autumn and winter likely will fail (Knowlton 1972, Hewson 1986) unless the population is isolated from ingressing foxes by some type of physical barrier. Managers who ignore the effects of dispersal in management plans to maintain or reduce local red fox populations may needlessly restrict harvest opportunities or may at best succeed minimally in their population reduction efforts.
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