Visitation of artificial watering points by the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in semiarid Australia

Date: 27, Jun, 2021
Author(s):   Roshier, D.A., Signer, J, Carter, A.
Publisher: Ecology and Evolution

The introduced red fox (Vulpes vulpes) now occupies most of the Australian continent outside the tropics, including arid and semiarid ecosystems. Information on the water requirements of foxes is scant, but free water is not thought to be required if adequate moisture-containing food is available. The frequency and duration of visits by foxes fitted with GPS collars to known artificial watering points in semiarid Australia were recorded for 22 individual foxes across four austral seasons between October 2015 and November 2017, providing >93,000 location fixes. We modeled home range and the distance traveled by range-resident foxes beyond their home range to reach known water sources. We used recurse analysis to determine the frequency of visitation and step-selection functions to model the speed and directionality of movement inside and outside the home range. Our study demonstrates that some foxes in this semiarid environment utilize free-standing water. The findings suggest that artificial watering points can be used as a focal point for conducting strategic fox control in arid and semiarid environments. Additionally, strategies that restrict access to water by foxes may reduce their duration of occupancy and/or long-term abundance in parts of the landscape, thus providing benefits for conservation and agriculture.