THE journey of a fox who travelled 25km in just one night has been uncovered thanks to GPS tracking by the Fordingbridge-based Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The vixon was also tracked doing some risky foraging along the hard shoulder of the M27.

She was fitted with a GPS collar by the conservation charity’s predator ecologist Mike Short near Fordingbridge in April 2019, as part of its LIFE Waders for Real project’s research into fox behaviour. Mike says GPS tracking is helping “unravel” the lives of foxes and their habitats.

The tracker showed overnight the vixen had left the river meadows and travelled about 25km across the New Forest, before settling near Totton. After a few days she ventured into Totton town centre. On another occasion she was tracked along the M27. After a week or so she was tracked heading south-west. Leaving Ower near Totton around 10pm, she covered about 20km back across the New Forest to the Avon Valley, following the A31 for some of her journey. By 5am she had arrived at the edge of a country estate just south of Ringwood.

The site is also one of the locations where the charity’s scientists, working on the LIFE Waders for Real project, monitor breeding waders and work to improve habitats to reverse their decline in the Avon Valley. The vixen remained in this area for more than a week, managing to avoid being spotted by 20 cameras used by the bird monitoring team.

The estate culls predators during the nesting season, which helps lapwing and redshank to thrive. The charity says a camera set up by the game-keeper picked her up and she was culled ten days after returning to the Avon Valley.

“Our GPS-tracking of foxes in the Avon Valley has shown that while most foxes living around river meadows are highly territorial, some are surprisingly mobile.” added Mike. “We don’t know where our vixen came from, but she showed how easily a fox can travel 20km in one night. This could indicate that some of the foxes that threaten the Avon Valley’s wading bird may migrate from Southampton or Bournemouth and Poole.”

The GWCT’s findings will be used to provide guidance for landscape managers and inform future policy decisions on predator management for wading bird conservation.