Red Fox Behaviour - Nightly Interactions

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Tracking data from Bristol suggest members of the same social group meet each other a couple of times per night, while they may not see neighbouring territory holders for almost a week at a time. - Credit: Marc Baldwin

Despite spending much of their day resting together, foxes conduct the majority of their nightly business alone. Group members do, however, meet frequently, if fleetingly during the night. Tracking foxes in Oxford, for example, the WildCRU team found that members of the same group were in contact (either calling or face-to-face meetings) for 18% of the time, while they were in contact with members of neighbouring groups for only 1% of the time. Indeed, it seems that members of neighbouring groups actively avoided each other at boundaries. Intragroup meetings (i.e. two members of the same group) were friendly, while intergroup meetings (those between members of different groups) tended to be aggressive.

In Bristol, Pirian White and Stephen Harris also observed that foxes met group members more frequently than neighbours and that intragroup meetings were generally amicable, while intergroup ones were aggressive. White and Harris also found that intergroup meetings were more common during the winter, which is presumably a reflection of this being the breeding season.

On average two neighbouring foxes met about once every one and a half days during the winter, compared to only once every four days or so in spring, summer or autumn. Within the social group, each fox met another member twice per night, on average; this was slightly higher during winter than in other seasons. Subsequent studies of Bristol's urban foxes have revealed that dominant and subordinate individuals interacted with each other more frequently than dominant individuals interacted with one another; subordinate individuals also interacted with other subordinates more frequently than dominant-dominant dyads. In addition, the MRU’s dataset show that, among intergroup meetings, males met females more often than they met other males, or vixens met other vixens.