Is it important to include fox population management in rabies control programmes?

Red foxes are often regarded as pests. Because of their high adaptability and reproducibility, however, the implementation of population control, which is often synonymous with fox population management, as part of on-going rabies control programmes is questionable. In fact, it has been controversially discussed if there is an additional effect of rigorous population reduction on the success of ORV campaigns. The impact may be limited because intensified hunting can actually cause social disruption in the fox population leading to increased potential for rabies transmission and consequently further spread and increase rabies incidence in neighbouring regions. If foxes are protected and/or endangered (e.g. Netherlands, Turkey), physically reducing the fox population may be prohibited or difficult. Mass elimination of previously vaccinated individuals from the population may also have a negative impact on development of herd immunity.

Nevertheless, in many countries foxes are considered fair game, and therefore fall under national hunting acts or other legislation (see section 3.2.11). In any case, any fox shot by hunters should be submitted for monitoring purposes during ORV campaigns, i.e. to assess bait uptake and herd immunity (see sections 5.5.5, 5.5.6, 5.5.7).


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012