Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Home-range size and selection of natal den and diurnal shelter sites by urban red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in Melbourne

Clive A. Marks A C and Tim E. Bloomfield A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Nocturnal Wildlife Research Pty Ltd, PO Box 2126, Wattletree Rd RPO, East Malvern, Vic. 3145, Australia.

B Vertebrate Pest Research Department, Victorian Institute of Animal Science, PO Box 48, Frankston, Vic. 3199, Australia.

C Corresponding author.

Wildlife Research 33(4) 339-347 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR04058
Submitted: 1 April 2004  Accepted: 18 April 2006   Published: 27 June 2006


Selection of natal dens and diurnal shelters by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) was investigated within the metropolitan area of Melbourne. Of 72 natal dens, 61% were in residential, public park, school or industrial lands. Most dens were beneath buildings (44.4%) or in earth banks (30.6%). The habitat categories in which dens were sited did not differ significantly from those described for London. Dens were more common beneath weatherboard buildings and were associated with properties that did not contain domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Diurnal shelter positions for 20 radio-collared foxes were obtained, and home-range data collected for 11 foxes. Estimated areas of adult home-range, for 100% minimum convex polygons (MCPs), varied between 11.5 and 45.8 ha, with from two to five diurnal shelter sites used in each home-range. Foxes showed a consistent preference for diurnal shelters associated with exotic weed infestations over ornamental and native vegetation or built habitats. Within these categories a diversity of substrates were used, including buildings, drains, graves, cypress trees, ornamental rockeries and garden beds. A preference for exotic weed infestations is an identifiable resource requirement for foxes in Melbourne and its removal may assist in reducing the abundance of urban foxes.


This work was jointly funded by the Bureau of Resource Sciences (Wildlife and Exotic Disease Preparedness Program) and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (Victoria). Many thanks to Frank Gigliotti who prepared the field site map used in this paper. Sally Hunt and Anne-Marie Tenni assisted in the collection of home-range data. John Robinson and late great Bill Baker assisted in the capture of foxes during this study. Steven Moore (Frankston Council) supplied the data on domestic dog ownership for the metropolitan area. We thank all of the municipal staff who assisted with the location of den sites, with special reference to Mick Leahey. Access to field sites was made possible by the cooperation of many organisations and institutions, with special thanks to the staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Government House, Burwood Cemetery, Port of Melbourne Authority, Victoria Police, Short Road Pile Depot, City of Boroondara, City of Melbourne, Wattle Park, National Trust, Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and the many members of the public who provided access to their properties. All procedures described in this paper were approved by the animal ethics committee of the former Department of Conservation and Environment (Victoria). An earlier draft of the manuscript benefited from constructive criticism by Glen Saunders, Andrew Bennett and Chris Dickman. Comments provided by two anonymous referees also improved the manuscript.


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