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Group size and space allocation in farmed juvenile blue foxes (Alopex lagopus)

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Abstract:

Farmed juvenile blue foxes were housed either singly, in pairs, or in quartets at a stocking density of either 0.6 m2 or 1.2 m2 per animal. The effects of group size and space allocation on physiological, behavioural and production-related parameters were assessed. The results showed that the larger space allocation, although having only minor effects on the measured parameters, allowed the foxes to maintain their individual space even in the larger group sizes. Social tension within the groups affected the behavioural and production-related parameters to a greater extent than did space allocation. The sex-related dominance order, with males having easier access to feed than females, and females having more bite scars and higher serum cortisol levels than males, appears to be the major factor affecting the general performance of mixed-sex group-housed farmed blue foxes. These results suggest that group housing of farmed juvenile blue foxes could be considered as an alternative, socially enriched way of housing these animals.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; BEHAVIOUR; BLUE FOX; GROUP HOUSING; PHYSIOLOGY; SPACE ALLOCATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-02-01

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