European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 555–564 | Cite as

Reproduction of the red fox Vulpes vulpes in western France: does staining improve estimation of litter size from placental scar counts?

  • Sandrine RuetteEmail author
  • Michel Albaret
Original Paper


We tested a staining method on uteri for counting placental scars on red fox. We estimated reproduction parameters on 358 females collected in three study areas in western France from 1st February 2002 to 31st January 2005. Placental scars (n = 103) were described by macroscopic examinations using the following variables: (1) the width and (2) the aspect of placental scars, (3) the abundance of macrophages or the presence of blood, (4) the presence of swellings, (5) the presence and colour of a central band and (6) the presence and colour of lateral bands. A factorial correspondence analysis showed strong associations between the month when scars were examined and categories of variables. Staining on placental scars made macrophages more visible, facilitating identification of ‘active’ placental scars, i.e. related to the last pregnancy. However, distinction between placental scars due to earlier pregnancies and resorptions was not possible. The staining method used provides a standard that could be useful for obtaining comparable and repeatable results. The mean number of placental scars was 4.85 ± 1.46 (n = 103) per vixen. The mean number of embryos per vixen was 4.66 ± 1.35 (n = 68) for yearlings and 5.53 ± 1.50 (n = 96) for older females. Including percentages of barren vixens, the total population productivity was significantly smaller for yearlings (3.62 ± 1.86, n = 158) than for older females (4.28 ± 1.75, n = 186). We discuss these results in relation to fox densities, culling and food availability.


Vulpes vulpes Placental scar counts Litter size Embryos counts Productivity Reproductive performance 



We are grateful to Yves Desmidt, Director, Jean-Louis Pilard, President of the Hunting Association of Ille-et-Vilaine and Joseph Bouvier, responsible of hunting in the Domagné study area. We also thank Franck Drouyer, Nicolas Haigron and Cyril Mangeard for efficient support in the fieldwork and all local hunters and trappers who helped in collecting foxes. Many thanks also to Catherine Carter who kindly edited the English.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, CNERA Prédateurs Animaux déprédateursMontfortFrance
  2. 2.Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, CNERA Prédateurs Animaux déprédateursClermont-FerrandFrance

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