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Fox society, contact rate and rabies epizootiology.


The social behaviour of red foxes Vulpes vulpes is flexible and is adapted to their environment. Consequently social organization varies from one habitat to another under the influence of factors such as the availability of food and the pattern of mortality. Variations in social behaviour between fox populations are mirrored in different frequencies of encounters between individual foxes and hence in potentially different 'contact rates' for rabies. We present a computer model whose simulations indicate that such variation in contact rate is of overriding importance in the epizootiology of vulpine rabies, and so emphasize the importance to rabies control of understanding the behavioural ecology of foxes.

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