Dominance, gender, and season influence food patch use in a group-living, solitary foraging canid

Jo Dorning, Stephen Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In patchy environments, foragers adopt different strategies to acquire resources depending on their internal state and external physical and social environment: this has important fitness consequences. Linking individual variation in patch use to tangible characteristics is key to understand many higher-level ecological processes. We studied patch use by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in the city of Bristol, UK. We placed camera traps in gardens where householders provisioned foxes (patches) to investigate whether 1) foxes discriminated between patches based on food availability, quantified as provisioning frequency (predictability) and the energy value of provisioned food; and 2) individual patch use varied with dominance, gender, and season. Increased frequency of provisioning encouraged more foxes to visit and to stay longer in patches. All foxes visited the most predictable patches first each day, but females were more selective and generally more efficient foragers than males. Females increased foraging effort during cub rearing, whereas males reduced patch use in the dispersal and mating season. Dominants and subordinates shared patches spatiotemporally, possibly facilitated by relatedness and familiarity between group members. However, dominants visited more food patches on their territory, spent more time in predictable patches and fed earlier than subordinates. Subordinates may compensate for competition by visiting patches of lower quality or outside their territory, which is inefficient and risky. Our results demonstrate gender differences in behavioral motivation, show how subordinates forego foraging efficiency to mitigate intra-group competition and reveal how human provisioning influences fox space use in urban areas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2017


  • Animal behaviour
  • Behavioural ecology
  • Urban foxes
  • Camera trapping
  • Foraging
  • Social groups
  • Carnivores
  • Human-animal interaction
  • Urban ecology
  • Wildlife


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