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The Behaviour After Release of Captive-reared Fox Cubs

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The release of animals from captivity frequently leads to a period of erratic movement behaviour which is thought to expose the animal to a high risk of mortality. Twenty-six faxes which had been reared at a wildlife hospital or captive-bred, were radio-collared when nearly full-grown and released without site acclimation. Immediately after release there was an erratic phase of behaviour, during which the foxes travelled widely and movement parameters were markedly elevated. For those faxes which survived, a second phase was entered after an average of 17.2 days, during which one small area only was used, and movement parameters were much reduced. In a second study, nine faxes were released following site acclimation in a pre-release pen; this process postponed but did not eliminate the phase of high movement activity.

This pattern of movement was compared with the dispersal behaviour of wild-reared foxes. It was concluded that released foxes, despite being proficient in other aspects of behaviour, were moving and behaving in a markedly abnormal manner and this resulted in a high death rate. The results are used to discuss methods of improving rehabilitation techniques.
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Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; DISPERSAL; FOX; RADIO-TRACKING; REHABILITATION; RELEASE FROM CAPTIVITY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1995-11-01

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