, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 41-47

Seasonal and sex differences in urine marking rates of wild red foxes Vulpes vulpes

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Abstract

Understanding the role of urine marking in the territorial systems of wild mammals can be difficult, especially for nocturnal cryptic species. Even for common species, such as the red fox Vulpes vulpes, a comprehensive analysis of seasonal and sex differences has not been carried out. Using 6 years of infra-red video monitoring, we compared marking rates between months and between sexes. Urine marking was significantly lower during summer (June–August). Males urine marked significantly more frequently than females during late summer and autumn, but not winter. Males marked more frequently than females also during March. There was no increase during the breeding season for either sex. Our results correlate with previous partial data but demonstrate how urine marking rates vary across the year. They also further support the greater role of males in fox territorial maintenance. Urine marking is lowest during summer when territorial intrusions are least, whilst the higher male urine marking rate in March reflects the period when females are denning. Overall, our results provide the first comprehensive analysis of red fox urine marking rates, contributing to a greater understanding of territoriality and olfactory communication.