Foxes & agriculture: Overview

Two lambs in a fieldThe impact of foxes on agriculture is a controversial issue. In general, farmers perceive any predator as a pest because of losses suffered by their livestock. However, several studies on the economic role of foxes have highlighted some interesting findings which are explored in detail in this section on foxes and agriculture.

Scattered banknotesEach year, rabbits cause an estimated £120 million of damage to agriculture in Britain. Foxes cause an estimated £12 million of damage but this needs to be put in perspective, because rabbits are the main prey of foxes in rural areas. By eating rabbits, foxes provide an indirect economic benefit to farmers of at least £7 million annually. Because fox benefits offset their costs, foxes are probably economically neutral to farmers.

A small pie chart showing causes of lamb mortalityResearch on lamb, poultry and piglets shows that losses to foxes are, in general, low and that simple measure to improve husbandry may effectively reduce predation. Pheasant losses to foxes are low in release pens but there are limited data on predation after release, when losses are slightly higher. However, since estates release a large surplus of birds (only about 40% of those released are shot), the economic impact of fox predation on released pheasants is probably small. To increase pheasant populations in the autumn, estates can either control foxes by shooting them or release more birds, for those estates that rely on rearing game.

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