Fox populations: Europe

Link to the map of the distribution of fox populations in Europe on an external website
Fox distribution in Europe. Click on the map to go to the full size image on the European Mammal Assessment website
© 2007 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Foxes are widespread throughout mainland Europe and in the British Isles, and in the past twenty years fox populations in Europe have been increasing in numbers.

During the 1970s and 1980s the European fox population was hit by an outbreak of rabies. Rabid foxes could be found to the east of a line from the Netherlands south to Italy. By the end of the 1980s, rabies reached its maximum westerly spread, having reached north-eastern parts of France.

Switzerland lead the way in an effort to deliver oral anti-rabies vaccination to wild foxes in 1978 and was quickly followed by most European countries. Today the outbreak has been arrested and many European countries are rabies free in terrestrial animals (rabies is also transmitted by bats). Rabies is still present in central and eastern Europe (see the Rabies Bulleting Europe website for details).

Thanks to the rabies vaccination campaign, the European fox population has been increasing since 1985. Reports of increases in fox numbers come from France, Germany and Switzerland, and this is likely to be a general trend across Europe. At the same time, reports of foxes in many urban areas across Europe suggest that foxes are colonizing urban environments as well.

Logo and link to the Integrated Fox project (external website)

This phenomenon has been well studied in Switzerland, where researchers of the Integrated Fox Project (website in German) found that most Swiss cities have been colonised by foxes and that rural and urban foxes seem not to interact much. People seem to be both intrigued by this wild carnivore and worried about disease transmission, especially the increased prevalence of alveolar echinoccosis caused by Echinoccocus multilocularis.

Explore the menu on the left to find out more about foxes in different regions. If you want more specific information on foxes in certain regions, please click on your region of interest and you will find links to other websites.

Websites of interest

Research on foxes in Europe

Fox Project in Switzerland:

Mammal Research Unit, University of Bristol

Research Finland, Norway and Sweden about arctic foxes (scientific name Alopex lagopus), a different species from the red fox:

The fight against rabies in Europe

New Scientist:

General reading on foxes

References

  • Bourthy, H., Dacheux, L., Strady, C. & Mailles, A. (2005) Rabies in Europe. Eurosurveillance 10, 213-216.
  • Deplazes, P., Hegglin, D., Gloor, S. & Romig, T. (2004) Wilderness in the city: the urbanization of Echinoccocus multilocularis. Trends in Parasitology 20, 77-84.
  • Gloor, S., Bontadina, F., Hegglin, D., Deplazes, P. & Breitenmoser U. (2001) The rise of urban fox populations in Switzerland. Mammalian Biology 66, 155-164.
  • Hofer, S., Gloor, S., Müller, U., Mathis, A., Hegglin, D. & Deplazes, P. (2000) High prevalence of Echinococcus multilocularis in urban red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and voles (Arvicola terrestris) in the city of Zurich, Switzerland. Parasitology 120, 135-142.