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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Feeding enrichment in an opportunistic carnivore: The red fox

Published source details

Kistler C., Hegglin D. , Wu¨rbel H. & Ko¨nig B. (2009) Feeding enrichment in an opportunistic carnivore: The red fox. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 116, 260-265


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Carnivores: Provide food on a random temporal schedule Management of Captive Animals

A small before-and-after study in 2005 of red foxes Vulpes vulpes in a wildlife park in Switzerland [3] found that when foxes were provided with unpredictable automated feeds, behavioural diversity and activity increased compared to scheduled feeding but not in relation to other feeding enrichment methods. Behavioural diversity (Shannon index: 2) and time spent in active behaviours (45%) increased when fed unpredictably, compared to predictable feeds before (Shannon index: 1.5; activity: 14%) and after (Shannon index: 1.8; activity: 26%) enrichment was presented. Activity was defined as all behaviours except resting and sleeping. Four adult foxes, housed together, were fed daily except Saturdays, on 400 g of meat, 200 g of fruits and 200 g of dried dog food, raisins, sunflower seeds and nuts. Behaviour was observed for one-hour sessions four times a day. During each observation hour, each fox was continuously observed for 15 minutes to assess behavioural diversity while instantaneous scan sampling at 2.5 minute intervals was used to assess general activity. Data were collected for five days in six conditions: 1) scheduled feeding times; 2) electronic feeders, each randomly dispensing 1/3 of all meat feed between 10:00 h and 18:00 h; 3) electronic feeders and a self-service food box; 4) electronic feeders plus scattered and hidden food; 5) electronic feeders and an electronic dispenser which dispersed food around the enclosure; and 6) a second period of scheduled feeding times