Cabergoline, a potent dopamine agonist and inhibitor of prolactin secretion, was investigated as a potential fertility control agent in the red fox ( Vulpes vulpes). Sixty silver fox vixens were selected randomly and artificially inseminated. Cabergoline was fed to groups of 12 vixens in a minced beef ration either as a single dose of 25, 50 or 100 microg kg(-1), or a dose of 50 microg kg(-1) that was repeated 2 days later (2 x 50 microg kg(-1)). Four foxes from each group of 12 were given cabergoline at day 28, day 35 or day 48 after artificial insemination, and a control group of four foxes was used as a comparison for each dose day. In a separate trial, two groups of five foxes were selected randomly from the farm population and fed 100 microg kg(-1) of either cabergoline or a placebo each day from day 42 to day 46 of pregnancy. Foxes that received single doses of cabergoline of 100 microg kg(-1) or 2 x 50 microg kg(-1) aborted at day 28, but the same doses did not result in abortions when administered on days 35 and 48. Although lactation was not terminated in groups that received a single or double dose of cabergoline, increased post-natal cub mortality was associated with cabergoline administration. Growth of cubs between 4 and 8 weeks of age was not inhibited in vixens that received cabergoline. Doses of 100 microg cabergoline kg(-1) administered each day from day 42 to day 46 resulted in abortions and terminated lactation. The capacity of single doses of cabergoline to cause abortions in the red fox during mid- rather than late pregnancy is contrary to reported observations for the domestic dog. This finding indicates that luteotrophic support of the corpus luteum by prolactin may be more important at mid-pregnancy in the red fox. The results of this study support previous field observations that cabergoline delivered in bait affects the reproductive success of vixens and may be a practical adjunct to the lethal control of wild red foxes in Australia.