Influence of Snow Depth on Prey Availability and Habitat Use by Red Fox

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Canadian Journal of Zoology



Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Habitat use by red fox (Vulpes vulpes) was studied during the winters of 1982 and 1983. A total of 125 km of fox trails in eastern Maine were followed during periods of snow cover to examine the influence of snow conditions on fox habitat selection and prey availability. Red foxes used all available habitats but showed preferences for softwood stands and open areas. Hardwood forests were avoided. During both winters, snow depth was greatest in hardwood and mixed stands where soft, powdery conditions prevailed. Windblown, supportive crusts were found in open barrens. Foxes showed habitat preferences for traveling and hunting. Fox sinking depths were least in all habitats when crust conditions prevailed, and during these periods travel distances were more evenly distributed among habitats. Snow influenced relative prey availability. Hunting activities shifted among habitats for small mammals during most of the second winter, when snow was shallow. Proportions of small mammals in the fox diet decreased as snow accumulated and as crusts formed. When snow was deep, foxes hunted in habitats with softwood regeneration and other dense understories that supported snowshoe hare concentrations.

This document is currently not available here.