Baiting red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) is an established method of vaccinating foxes against rabies in rural environments. Furthermore, anthelmintic baiting has been demonstrated to reduce the prevalence of the zoonotic tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis in foxes. The recent invasion of foxes into urban areas on continental Europe represents a considerable health risk that calls for the evaluation of baiting strategies adapted to the urban environment. We investigated bait uptake by urban foxes using camera traps in Zurich, Switzerland. Baits with and without the anthelmintic praziquantel were placed in several arrangements (exposed, covered, buried), at different locations (fox dens, compost heaps, fox tracks) and in different seasons (early summer, summer, winter). Ninety-one of 252 baits (36%) disappeared within 3 days. Most of the baits consumed near cameras were consumed by foxes (44 of 91). The remaining baits were consumed by hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus), snails (Arion sp.), dogs, rodents (Apodemus sp.), and unidentified animals. Bait uptake by foxes was significantly higher during summer than winter (P = 0.022), and foxes accepted baits most frequently at fox dens during early summer (52.8%). Burying baits reduced bait removal by species other than foxes (P < 0.01). For rabies control in urban areas, avoiding contact of nontarget species with the rabies vaccine is particularly important. Greater selection of the fox population can be achieved by distributing baits in winter, burying baits, and choosing sites that are less accessible to non-target species. However, with anthelmintic treatment, uptake by nontarget species is of lesser importance; hence, the effort to bury the bait is unnecessary.
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Vol. 68 • No. 4