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Enrichment Value of Wooden Blocks for Farmed Blue Foxes (Alopex Lagopus)

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The barren housing conditions of farmed blue foxes (Alopex lagopus) provide few stimuli to motivate exploration and interaction with the physical environment. In the present study, wooden blocks (30x7 cm [lxdia]) were employed to clarify how such inanimate objects might serve to enrich the barren wire-mesh cages. Two separate experiments were carried out. In experiment 1, behavioural reactions of eight male blue foxes to wooden blocks were videotaped between January and May. In experiment 2, 16 male blue foxes were housed singly in cages with wooden blocks and 16 without between January and June. Pencil, confrontation, feeding and open field tests were carried out. Furthermore, 50 female blue foxes were kept singly in cages with wooden blocks and 49 without from January to July. Both groups were bred and the whelping result was recorded. In-cage behavioural tests were performed three times. Results showed that interactions with the wooden blocks were frequent, averaging 77 interactions fox−1 day−1, Interactions with blocks decreased slightly with time. Blocks were mainly used for carrying, chewing, poking and sniffing. In the confrontation test, male foxes housed without blocks were more passive than those with blocks. No differences were found between the groups in the pencil, feeding or open field tests. Whelping success tended to be better for vixens housed with than without blocks. It can be concluded that wooden blocks have enrichment value by providing more choices for foxes in a barren cage and stimulating more variable behaviour.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-05-01

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