Foxes can fish—perhaps better than some people. That’s the main takeaway from a study recently published in the Journal of Ecology. “Fish
Foxes can fish—perhaps better than some people. That’s the main takeaway from a study recently published in the Journal of Ecology. “Fish are an unusual prey group in the diet of red foxes that are occasionally reported in dietary studies, but we [did] not know if the red fox obtains fish from scavenging or active hunting,” write the study’s authors. “Here, we report what may be the first known case of several fish hunted by a red fox.”
The researchers were observing red foxes in western Spain in March 2016 when they saw—and filmed—one male red fox catch and kill 10 European carp over the course of several hours. The fox was impressively efficient, with a success rate of 83 percent. It would stalk the edge of the water, and then charge out and capture spawning carp. Afterward, it cached its kills away from the water for later consumption.
“Seeing the fox hunting carp one after another was incredible. We have been studying this species for years, but we never expected something like this,” ecologist Jorge Tobajas of the University of Córdoba told Science News. “The most surprising thing was to see how the fox hunted many carp without making any mistakes. This made us realize that it was surely not the first time he had done it.”
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The male fox was later seen giving one of its kills to a female fox, likely its mate. The researchers did not report seeing any other foxes catching fish—but they say they would be shocked if the fox they witnessed was the only individual to exhibit this behavior. With this finding, red foxes, which are dispersed throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, become the second species of canid known to fish. Gray wolves along the Pacific Coast and in Minnesota are also known to intentionally target fish for consumption.