Intra-population variations in home range size can be considerable among carnivores, especially in the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). In this species, variations are not necessarily sex or age dependent. Our aim was to test whether differences in home range size and stability could be related to red fox female reproductive status, considering that red fox populations exhibit variable proportions of barren vixens. We examined differences in size and stability of seasonal home ranges of 16 foxes (three males and 13 females) radio-tracked from June 2001 to June 2003, in the Ardennes, France. Mean individual home range sizes varied widely, from 31 to 311 ha, with an average of 109 ha. The smaller a home range was, the more stable it was. Home range size was not sex dependent, but female home ranges were more stable than male ones. Reproductive females, mostly 2 y old at least, had smaller home ranges (mean: 50 ha) than non-reproductive females (mean: 174 ha), all 1 y of age. However, there was no difference in female home range stability. We hypothesized that reproductive females monopolize the richest food patches at the expense of non-reproductive females, which are younger and assumed to be subordinate and/or less experienced. Therefore, home range size correlated to food richness may be an important factor for female reproductive success. Competition for food and space could thus explain female reproductive suppression.
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Vol. 12 • No. 2