Acta Theriologica

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 377–389 | Cite as

Foraging ecology and spatial behaviour of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in a wet grassland ecosystem

  • Katrine MeisnerEmail author
  • Peter Sunde
  • Kevin Kuhlmann Clausen
  • Preben Clausen
  • Casper Cæsar Fælled
  • Marie Hoelgaard
Original Paper


We investigated diet composition, habitat selection and spatial behaviour of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in relation to the availability of wader nests in a coastal polder area in southwest Denmark. The predatory role of the red fox in wet grassland ecosystems has profound implications for conservation status of declining populations of grassland breeding waders. However, few studies have focussed on the foraging ecology and behaviour of the red fox in these landscapes. Faecal analyses revealed that fox diet consisted of birds (43 % of prey remains / 32 % of biomass), rodents (39 % / 21 %), sheep (mainly as carrion, 14 % / 41 %) and lagomorphs (4 % / 7 %). Charadriiformes (including waders) comprised 3–12 % of prey remains throughout the year. Telemetry data and spotlight counts indicated that foxes did not select areas with high densities of breeding waders, suggesting that foxes did not target wader nests while foraging. Foxes maintained stable home ranges throughout their lives, indicating that the area sustained a permanent fox population all year round. The population densities, estimated from spotlight surveys, were 0.74 visible foxes km−2 (95 % CI; 0.34–1.61) on the preferred breeding habitat for waders and 1.21 km−2 in other open habitats such as cultivated fields. Our results indicate that red fox predation on wader nests is incidental, consistent with the notion that red foxes are generalist predators that opportunistically subsist on many prey groups.


Diet composition Incidental predation Nest predation Resource selection functions Scat analysis Vulpes vulpes Waders 



This study was funded by the Danish Nature Agency. The Danish Nature Agency and County of Sønderjylland granted access to the Margrethe Kog Reserve. We thank the municipality of Tønder and local landowners for allowing access to their land. Lars Dalby assisted with telemetry and spotlight surveys and offered valuable comments to previous drafts of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrine Meisner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter Sunde
    • 1
  • Kevin Kuhlmann Clausen
    • 1
  • Preben Clausen
    • 1
  • Casper Cæsar Fælled
    • 1
  • Marie Hoelgaard
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityRøndeDenmark

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