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Complex housing environment for farmed blue foxes (Vulpes lagopus): use of various resources

  • T. Koistinen (a1) and H. T. Korhonen (a2)

Abstract

The present study was designed to measure the use of various, simultaneously available resources in a complex housing environment in juvenile blue foxes. Twelve blue fox sibling (male–female) pairs were housed in two-section experimental cages from the age of 8 weeks until the age of 7 months (from June to December). Each experimental cage was furnished with two platforms, a nest box, a sand box and a wooden block. This housing set-up provided the foxes with social contact, and an opportunity for oral manipulation, scratching and nesting, as well as the choice of staying on a solid floor material or on an elevated location. The foxes’ behaviour was recorded at three time points during autumn (September, November and December). The foxes used all available resources. The most utilised resource was the nest box, possibly because it could be utilised in several ways (as a shelter, an elevated location, an object for scratching and for oral manipulation). The foxes also stayed more in the cage section containing the nest box than in the cage section containing a sand box. The foxes rested much on the cage floor, but they also used the interior of the nest box and elevated locations for resting. Social contact often occurred during resting. Thus, the nest box and elevated location, in conjunction with social contact seem to be valuable while resting. While active, the foxes utilised the cage floor and roof of the nest box instead of the platforms. Scratching, digging and an interaction with the wooden block were seldom observed. Activity occurred mainly on the ‘empty’ cage area. In conclusion, all studied resources provided blue foxes with a distinct value, as they all were used in the complex housing environment. The nest box is used most and for most variable behaviours.

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