The Effects of Elevated Platforms and Concealment Screens on the Welfare of Blue Foxes
Nowadays in Europe, farmed blue foxes are kept for most of the year in wire-mesh cages furnished with a platform for resting and observing the environment but without any opportunity for hiding from other faxes or from man. We studied the welfare effects of providing an elevated platform and two types of concealment screens in singly housed juvenile male blue foxes (n = 46) from August to December. The foxes were allocated to four experimental groups: group C had no furnishing in the cage, group P had a platform in the cage, group O had a platform and a concealment screen in the cage, and group 0had a platform and a concealment screen on the outer wall of the cage. The blue foxes with platforms (groups P, U and O) spent the majority of their time on the platforms both when their cages were approached by man and as revealed by 24 h video recording. The 24 h recordings revealed that the foxes tended to avoid those locations in the cage where the screens obstructed their view (groups U and O); however, when the screens allowed the foxes to hide from an approaching man (group U), they were used for that purpose to some extent. There were no differences between the four groups in terms of growth, increase in rectal temperature after an acutely stressing situation, adrenal size, or fearfulness. The urinary cortisol:creatinine ratio showed that foxes in group U may have been less stressed than those in groups P and O in September, but no differences were observed in October. The concealment screens of group U may have improved the welfare of these blue foxes.
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