Context. Foxes are carriers of many zoonoses, such as the fox tapeworm. Treating foxes with medication of edible bait is often the only way of protecting people. Whereas bait can be distributed very effectively by aeroplane in rural areas, in settled areas it must be distributed by hand. In doing so it is important to get as close as possible to the foxes.
Aims. In suburban areas it is important to ensure that it is mainly foxes that take the bait and that they do so within a short time. In order to achieve this, a habitat model was developed for the baiting of foxes in suburban areas.
Methods. In Grünwald, a suburb of Munich, 12 foxes were radio-collared and observed to see which gardens they visited more frequently or for longer periods. At the same time, the community area was divided up by a grid. At each point on the grid, two gardens were selected: one garden known to be visited by foxes, and a control garden in which no fox had been observed. In this way the structure of average gardens in the community could be compared with those used by foxes. On this basis a model of garden use by foxes was developed and checked by a program of phototrapping in a separate area.
Key results. Using sources of food, bushes and garden houses as variables, a habitat model was developed with the categories ‘unsuitable’, ‘less suitable’ and ‘very suitable’ for foxes. This correlated closely with the appearance of foxes in gardens (P < 0.001).
Conclusion. The model helps to identify gardens preferred by foxes.
Implications. This study shows us how to reach foxes in suburban environments quickly with bait containing medication and so contributes to improving public health. The method described, of checking a model in an area not used in the development of the model, can also be seen as a contribution towards the universalisation of models.