Individual and seasonal variation in contact rate, connectivity and centrality in red fox (Vulpes vulpes) social groups

Jo Dorning*, Stephen Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

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

4 Citations (Scopus)
83 Downloads (Pure)


Examining temporal variation in social connectivity and relating this to individual behaviour can help understand the role of individuals within social groups. Although red foxes are solitary foragers, they form social groups at higher population densities. To investigate the effects of season, sex and status on social connectivity in red fox social groups, we set camera traps for four consecutive seasons to record contact rates and social network metrics at food patches in seven fox territories. Higher food availability was associated with higher contact rates. Individual contact rates peaked in different seasons depending on sex and social status. Dominant foxes held central network positions in all seasons but there was no consistent pattern in social connections within territories, suggesting a greater influence of features such as group size and composition on network structure than seasonal behaviour. Increased extraterritorial movements by males during winter contributed to a significant reduction in local network connectivity. Female network strength did not vary with season, suggesting that females play an important role in maintaining year-round group cohesion. These data advance our understanding of canid social systems, the benefits of group-living in solitary foraging carnivores, and the impacts of management interventions for an ecologically important species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20095
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2019


  • animal behaviour
  • behavioural ecology
  • urban ecology

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