Journal of Ethology

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 167–173 | Cite as

Predation processes: behavioural interactions between red fox and roe deer during the fawning season

  • Anders JarnemoEmail author


Predation by red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the most important mortality cause for neonatal roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in Scandinavia. With the objective of investigating how the fox finds fawns and how antipredatory behaviour of roe deer females influences choice of hunting method, I analysed observations of interactions between red fox and roe deer females. The observations were collected over 14 years in a mixed forest/agricultural landscape in Sweden. Of 49 fox–doe encounters, the doe attacked the fox in 59%. In 90% of these attacks the fox was successfully deterred. In two observations a doe saved a fawn attacked by a fox. Two hunting methods used by the fox were discerned. In 28 cases foxes searched the ground, and in 18 cases they surveyed open areas, often from a forest edge. The latter behaviour seemed more directed at fawns and was seen leading to a capture attempt. Searching seemed less efficient and also difficult to conduct due to the aggressiveness of does. A surveying sit-and-wait type of hunting method thus appeared as the most successful. The possibility to use this method could explain why roe deer fawns are more vulnerable to fox predation in open habitats.


Antipredator strategies Hunting behaviour Maternal defence Neonatal predation Predator–prey interactions Red fox Roe deer Ungulates 



I thank Olof Liberg, who initiated the roe deer research project and supported this study. Conny Larsson, Olof Liberg, Steffan Lockowandt, Agneta Olsson, Ulrika Ryberg, and Kjell Wahlström helped observe foxes. I am grateful to Lennart Hansson, Göran Hartman, Petter Kjellander, Olof Liberg, and Tomas Pärt for valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript and to Reidar Anderson for information about fox observations in Norway. The roe deer project was financed by grants from “Stiftelsen Oscar och Lili Lamms Minne”, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket), the Scientific Research Council (Naturvetenskapliga Forskningsrådet), and the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management. The estates Ekenäs and Lagmansö were put at our disposal by “Stiftelsen Oscar och Lili Lamms Minne” and friherre Henrik Falkenberg.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Conservation BiologySwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden

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