Do Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) Increase the Detectability of Scent Marks by Selecting Highly Conspicuous Substrates?

M. Zaman, Bryony Tolhurst, Mengyhan Zhu, B. Heng, Guangshun Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In mammals, especially those that are nocturnal or crepuscular, chemical marks usually play a significant role as environmental labels. Scent marks in mammals can have many functions, including territorial defense and communication signals in the mating season. Furthermore, animals can increase the detectability of marks by selecting highly conspicuous locations and substrates on which to mark, such as stones and sticks, on or around faeces, other animal carcasses, anthropogenic features, and plants. Human-carnivore interactions can result in a conflict where perceived damage to livelihoods occurs in socio-economically poor areas. In the Shigar Valley, Karakorum Range, Pakistan, subsistence mixed farming is the predominant land use and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are widely persecuted. Understanding the effects of human activity and habitat factors on fox behaviors in the region are lacking. We used line transect surveys aided by a domestic dog (Canis familiaris) to detect fox faeces locations and characterize fox dens from 2015-16-17. We encountered 467 fox scats by dog assistance. We tested for associations between scent deposition, and environmental variables including vegetation and substrate type, distribution of livestock carcasses and dung, roads and agricultural land at micro-habitat. We found more fox scats on aromatic plants, shrubs, and on or near livestock faeces and carcasses. Fox scent marking site selection varied for forested and shrub areas relative to open grassland or barren ground and vegetation cover and tree density at the microhabitat scale. The findings suggest that foxes do not avoid human activity per se and anthropogenic benefits (road kill, livestock carrion, crop food sources) may outweigh the costs of persecution. Foxes may also provide ecosystem benefits via seed dispersal, carrion removal and regulation of prey populations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number000113
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Ethology and Animal Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2019


  • Communications
  • Domestic dog
  • Single post
  • Territory marking


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