They used to be farmed for their fur, but authorities in Xinjiang have found a better use for these cute little animals: using them to deal with the almost overwhelming rat problem! And they’ve proven really, really good at being rat catchers too.
According to People’s Daily:
This year, about 5.5 million hectares of grasslands, or more than 10 percent of the total coverage in Xinjiang, have been overrun by disease-infested rats. The rats have ravaged the grasslands, eating grassroots and damaging the prairies with underground digging, according to the regional locust and rat control headquarters.
“Foxes are excellent natural predators of the rodent. One fox can catch about 20 rats per day. There has been a decline in the rat population in several counties where the measure has been adopted,” said Ni Yifei, deputy head of the headquarters.
The headquarters’ fox training base was set up in Altai Prefecture in 2004. It has already trained an army of 284 foxes that have been released into the wild.
With dozens of foxes released since 2004, the biological-control-of-rats experiment in Fuhai County, Altai, has reduced the number of rats in the area by 70 percent and the number of burrows per hectare of land has dropped from 50 to 15, the autonomous region’s department of animal husbandry said.
Considering that China usually uses poison to deal with rats, silver fox training has turned into an economical and environmentally friendly way of solving the scourge. They’re not alone in their hunt either – eagles, birds, chickens, ducks and wolves are also part of the rat attack training program!