The impact of sarcoptic mange Sarcoptes scabiei on the British fox Vulpes vulpes population

CD Soulsbury, G Iossa, PJ Baker, NC Cole, SM Funk, S Harris

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

94 Citations (Scopus)


1. Disease epizootics can significantly influence host population dynamics and the structure and functioning of ecological communities. Sarcoptic mange Sarcoptes scabiei has dramatically reduced red fox populations Vulpes vulpes in several countries, including Britain, although impacts on demographic processes are poorly understood. We review the literature on the impact of mange on red fox populations, assess its current distribution in Britain through a questionnaire survey and present new data on resultant demographic changes in foxes in Bristol, UK. 2. A mange epizootic in Sweden spread across the entire country in <10 years resulting in a decline in fox density of up to 95%; density remained lowered for 15–20 years. In Spain, mange has been enzootic for > 75 years and is widely distributed; mange presence was negatively correlated with habitat quality. 3. Localized outbreaks have occurred sporadically in Britain during the last 100 years. The most recent large-scale outbreak arose in the 1990s, although mange has been present in south London and surrounding environs since the 1940s. The questionnaire survey indicated that mange was broadly distributed across Britain, but areas of perceived high prevalence (> 50% affected) were mainly in central and southern England. Habitat type did not significantly affect the presence/absence of mange or perceived prevalence rates. Subjective assessments suggested that populations take 15–20 years to recover. 4. Mange appeared in Bristol's foxes in 1994. During the epizootic phase (1994–95), mange spread through the city at a rate of 0.6–0.9 km/month, with a rise in infection in domestic dogs Canis familiaris c. 1–2 months later. Juvenile and adult fox mortality increased and the proportion of females that reproduced declined but litter size was unaffected. Population density declined by > 95%. 5. In the enzootic phase (1996–present), mange was the most significant mortality factor. Juvenile mortality was significantly higher than in the pre-mange period, and the number of juveniles classified as dispersers declined. Mange infection reduced the reproductive potential of males and females: females with advanced mange did not breed; severely infected males failed to undergo spermatogenesis. In 2004, Bristol fox population density was only 15% of that in 1994.
Translated title of the contributionThe impact of sarcoptic mange Sarcoptes scabiei on the British fox Vulpes vulpes population
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278 - 296
Number of pages19
JournalMammal Review
Volume37 (4)
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


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