What techniques are available for estimating the number of foxes?

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Re-captured fox cubs

Determining the absolute fox density is difficult, and is often not feasible because of time and financial constraints. Different methods are available to estimate fox populations, all of which have pros and cons. Fox density indices based on field data like, spotlight counts, radio-tracking, transect counting, faeces counting, tracking stations etc., are not easy to obtain as they are time and labour intensive (for review see here).

Although these methods may provide reliable data, they can only give a regional estimate for the area under investigation, and therefore cannot be extrapolated to other areas. Furthermore, these methods do not give an estimate of the absolute density but only of the relative abundance.

To overcome these issues, the hunting index of population density (HIPD) is generally used. This index is also not without bias as it is not only affected by the fox density but also by hunting pressure, and should therefore be used with caution. Nevertheless, the HIPD can be used to obtain general temporal trends for larger areas.


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012