The Condition and Survival Affer Release of Captive-reared Fox Cubs
Abstract:In Britain large numbers of animals are taken into captivity for treatment or care and then subsequently returned to the wild, but there are few data on the effectiveness of these rehabilitation programmes. In this study, over a period of four years 251 fox cubs that had been captive-reared were tagged and released; 90 were recovered. Survival rates were low, and road traffic accidents were found to be a major cause of mortality immediately following release. Recovery distances were lower than expected. The stress associated with captive-rearing meant that released foxes weighed less than wild-reared foxes, and they suffered further weight loss in the period immediately following release, even though an analysis of the stomach contents of animals recovered dead showed that released faxes rapidly learnt to hunt successfully.
It was concluded that captive-rearing is a problematic process for faxes, and contrary to predictions they face severe problems in adapting following release. Suggestions are made for the improvement of fox captive-rearing and release programmes, and the need for similar studies on other species is highlighted.