Red Fox: The Catlike Canine BOOK REVIEW

Originally published in the Probe. Official newsletter of the National Animal Damage Control Assoc. For other items published in the Probe by Stephen Vantassel click Probe. If you would like your product reviewed click Review.

J. David Henry. Red Fox: The Catlike Canine. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution
Press, 1986. pp. 5-177 with index.

Red Fox: Catlike CanineDavid Henry has produced an extremely informative and readable book about the red fox. The book is the distillation of Henry's field observations of fox behavior while in Saskatchewan's Prince Albert National Park. This area was chosen because foxes have not been trapped here in over fifty years.
The author dutifully covers necessary topics about fox biology. Chapters cover courtship, diet, hunting habits and anatomy. But don't be left with the impression that this is a sterile biology book filled with eye glazing facts and figures. Instead the author discusses the topics with a masterful style that only comes from one who has truly learned about the fox. He properly talks about fox behavior in general terms without getting bogged down into all the exceptions often required by more rigid scientific texts. Readers will be pleasantly educated by those passages where the author dialogs with broader biological theories concerning animal development and behavior.

As one who has never trapped fox, I found Henry's observations on fox urinating habits to be quite interesting. This is especially true in light of all the talk about fox urine in trapping fox in the various trapping guides. First, foxes rarely if ever release more than one ounce of urine at one time. In fact, he noted that fox tend to urinate a little at a lot of different times. Second, he found that scent posts, those areas where foxes mark their territory, constituted only 12% of their urinating behavior. Urine posts ere only refreshed about once every two days. Finally, he discovered that the majority of fox urination centered around their scavenging activities. Foxes urinated when they found even the suggestion of food.

More importantly for animal controllers is the author's discoveries regarding the way foxes cache food. What he discovered was that a fox can survive on one pound of meat per day. Thus when foxes gather more food, they store it for a rainy day. He found that foxes were careful to spread the food out into various caches. This way the fox prevents losing all the food should a cache be discovered by various robbers. A cache is made by digging out a small hole only a few inches into the soil. Foxes carefully remove surface debris, dig the hole, bury the food, and recover the site by precisely reversing the steps so that the surface debris is added last. The reason for this precise work is to camouflage the location. The hole can't be too deep otherwise the fox won't be able to smell it. Neither can it be too shallow for the food will spoil. What was interesting about their activity is that a fox never urinates where it caches food. Henry discovered that foxes urinate only where the food smell suggested food but that there wasn't any usable food available. He also discovered that were the food odor was particularly persistent like would be with a bone, the fox would mark the site with feces.

You might be wondering about the reasons why fox trappers are successful using urine along with bait in trapping fox if foxes urinate where there is no food. Well, Dr. Henry also found that if the smell of food was particularly strong, foxes would ignore the urine and dig after the food. I might also point out that Charlie Dobbins in his newly released video "The Dirt Hole and Its Variations" makes his sets to exploit these fox caching characteristics. For example, he uses fox urine when he wants the fox to think that there is no food in the hole and trap it as it investigates. I hope this information will help you reevaluate your use of urine in catching foxes. For chances are your using too much and in the wrong situations.
If your looking for a book on foxes, I would strongly suggest this one by Mr. Henry. I am sure that it will assist you in appreciating the wonderment of this beautiful creature as well as help you understand how to catch him. Understand that this text is not a trapping manual. but I am confident that it will help you You should be able to find the book at the library of your local college or University. But if you would like to own the book you can still purchase it by calling your local book store and have them order it. The hardcover price quoted to me was 28 dollars and I assume plus shipping.

Update. It is now in paperback and costs around ten dollars.

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Fox Damage Control Information

Stephen Vantassel is a Certified Wildlife Control Professional. He is a nationally known writer including having been an assistant editor for Wildlife Control Technology magazine, author of numerous ADC articles as well as The Wildlife Removal Handbook rev.ed and the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook rev. ed. Mr. Vantassel is also a vocal critic of the growing animal rights movement. He has exposed the fallacies and deceptions of the animal rights protest industry through debate, lecture and publication.

9/7/03

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