We investigated diet composition, habitat selection and spatial behaviour of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in relation to the availability of wader nests in a coastal polder area in southwest Denmark. The predatory role of the red fox in wet grassland ecosystems has profound implications for conservation status of declining populations of grassland breeding waders. However, few studies have focussed on the foraging ecology and behaviour of the red fox in these landscapes. Faecal analyses revealed that fox diet consisted of birds (43 % of prey remains / 32 % of biomass), rodents (39 % / 21 %), sheep (mainly as carrion, 14 % / 41 %) and lagomorphs (4 % / 7 %). Charadriiformes (including waders) comprised 3–12 % of prey remains throughout the year. Telemetry data and spotlight counts indicated that foxes did not select areas with high densities of breeding waders, suggesting that foxes did not target wader nests while foraging. Foxes maintained stable home ranges throughout their lives, indicating that the area sustained a permanent fox population all year round. The population densities, estimated from spotlight surveys, were 0.74 visible foxes km−2 (95 % CI; 0.34–1.61) on the preferred breeding habitat for waders and 1.21 km−2 in other open habitats such as cultivated fields. Our results indicate that red fox predation on wader nests is incidental, consistent with the notion that red foxes are generalist predators that opportunistically subsist on many prey groups.
Acta Theriologica, 2014, Vol 59, Issue 3, p. 377-389