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Physiological and behavioural responses in blue foxes (Alopex lagopus ) : comparisons between space quantity and floor material

  • H. Korhonen (a1), L. Jauhiainen (a2), P. Niemelä (a1), M. Harri (a3) and R. Sauna-aho (a4)...

Abstract

Welfare-related physiological and behavioural responses were studied in farmbred blue foxes (Alopex lagopus). Comparisons in space quantity were made between two different-sized shed cages (50 cm long (W50) and 120 cm long (W120); each 105 cm wide ✕ 70 cm high) and for one out-of-shed pen (5 m long ✕ 3 m wide ✕ 1·8 m high; W500). Each option had a wire-mesh floor. Furthermore, we tested how floor material affects responses by comparing the W500 foxes in wire-mesh floor pens with foxes housed in earthen floor pens (E500: 5 m long ✕ 3 m wide ✕ 1·8 m high). Each test group comprised 20 juvenile males maintained in pairs. The experiments lasted from weaning in July to pelting in December. Final body weights of the W500 foxes were significantly lower than those of the W50 or W120 foxes. Claw length of back foot was longer for E500 than for W500 foxes. Posture of front feet was the most folded for W50 and the least folded for E500 foxes. Breaking strength of tibia was highest for foxes housed on the earthen floor (E500). Gastrocnemius muscle succinate dehydrogenase activity tended to decrease and the number of leucocytes tended to increase with cage size. Alanine-aminotransferase and aspartate-amino transferase activities were significantly higher in foxes housed in shed cages (W50, W120) than in enclosures (W500, E500). Creatine-kinase activity tended to decline with increasing cage size. Highest and lowest open field activity was found for E500 and W50 foxes in both wire-mesh and earthen floor test arenas. Some differences were found in body weight-related organ sizes between groups. Heart weight was significantly higher in W500 than in W50 or W120 foxes. Brain weight was significantly lower in W50 than in W500 foxes. Liver weight increased with increasing cage size. Capture time was significantly lower for W50 and W120 foxes than for W500 or E500 foxes. Cortisol levels after capture were significantly higher in foxes from enclosures (W500, E500) than in those from shed cages (W50, W120), but after ACTH stimulation the levels were similar in each group. Rectal temperatures after restraint were highest in foxes from W500. Fur properties of W500 and E500 foxes were poorer than those of W50 or W120 foxes.

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Keywords

Physiological and behavioural responses in blue foxes (Alopex lagopus ) : comparisons between space quantity and floor material

  • H. Korhonen (a1), L. Jauhiainen (a2), P. Niemelä (a1), M. Harri (a3) and R. Sauna-aho (a4)...

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