Environmental enrichment is essential for the wellness of captive animals, as it provides mental and physical stimulation, reduces stress and stereotypic behavior, and promotes exercise, social interaction, and overall activity. Among captive canids in particular, enrichment may elicit instinctual behaviors, including hunting, foraging, exploring, and socializing, that improve overall quality of life. We conducted an experiment to test how environmental enrichment affects the behavior of captive red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) at Xtreme Exotics Wildlife Foundation in St. Augustine, Florida. Six individual foxes, housed in pairs, were provided with four different enrichment objects (one per day): a suspended feather-rope toy, a beef femur bone, a hanging PVC pipe puzzle containing quail eggs, and a sand box. Individual behavior was observed for 30 minutes before and after each object was introduced. We predicted that foxes would interact directly with the novel objects and that enrichment would increase social interactions, reduce stress behaviors, and increase other activity, although the strength of behavioral responses might vary between objects that stimulate different senses. A linear mixed-effects model revealed that all enrichment objects elicited direct interactions and increased other activity, while the sand box and quail egg puzzle stimulated the greatest increases in social interactions between paired individuals. Stress behaviors were rare and not affected by enrichment. As social mammals, captive foxes can benefit mentally and physically from being housed with conspecifics where social interactions and exercise are stimulated through enrichment. Our findings underscore the importance of enrichment in captive animal husbandry and can guide further research and management of captive canids.

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