Other Common Names: Silver Fox
Genus & Species: Vulpes vulpes
Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Most of the northern hemisphere from Arctic Circle to Central America, central Asia and northern Africa. Has the widest range of any canid. Introduced to Australia and Falkland Islands.
Wide range including forest, tundra, prairie, desert, mountains, farmlands, and urban areas. Altitudinal range from sea level to 14,700 feet.
Primarily nocturnal but some crepuscular activity. Solitary except during the breeding season.
Body 17 to 35 inches; tail 12 to 22 inches; average male weight 9 to 12 pounds; average female weight 9 to 10 pounds. Adults stand 15 to 16 inches from the ground.
Usually 3 to 7 years but as long as 12 to 15 years.
Diet in the wild: Omnivorous eating rodents, rabbits, birds, insects, fruit, vegetables, and carrion.
Diet in the zoo: Commercial ground raw meat, mice, rats, chicks, rabbits, dry dog chow, and banana.
Red Foxes come in several color phases: red phase foxes are the most common and have yellowish-red to rusty-red fur above and white fur on the underparts; silver phase foxes have solid black hairs interspersed with black hairs tipped in white; cross fox phases are red with black stripes across the shoulders and down the back. All color phases have dark legs and very bushy tails. The tail usually ends in a white tip.
Gestation: 49 to 56 days.
Offspring: 1 to 13 but usually 4 to 8 pups or kits; 1 litter per year. Breeding season varies by region but usually occurs December – April.
Red foxes attract each other with a series of nocturnal barking. Young are born in an earthen den and the female (vixen) remains with them in the den to nurse for four to five weeks; the male brings food to her during this time. At birth, pups are brown or gray; a new red coat usually grows in by the end of the first month. The young start eating meat when they come out of the den. They remain with the parents until at least fall – sometimes longer. A male may have two females with their young in his territory. Females will return to the same nesting den year after year. Males and females are sexually mature at 304 days.
- Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:
With their powerful legs, red foxes can run 28 to 45 miles per hour and can leap up to 6 feet. They hunt by sight, smell, and hearing.
The fox’s thick tail aids its balance, as a warm cover in cold weather, and as a signal flag to communicate with other foxes.
Red foxes stay warm by growing a long winter coat. An adult fox rarely retreats to a den during the winter, but will instead curl into a ball in the open, using its bushy tail to wrap around its nose and footpads. Many times, they can be found completely blanketed in snow. With the onset of spring, red foxes shed their winter fur and prepare for warmer weather.
Foxes help to control populations of small rodents and rabbits and may disperse seeds.
Red foxes use a variety of vocalizations to communicate among themselves. They also use facial expressions and scent marking extensively. Scent marking is through urine, feces, and anal sac secretions, the supracaudal (tail) gland, and glands around the lips, jaw, and pads of the feet. There have been 28 different kinds of vocalizations described in red foxes and individuals have voices that can be distinguished. Vocalizations are used to communicate with foxes that are both nearby and very far away.
Red foxes are partially territorial; ranges are occupied by one adult male and one or two adult females and their young.
Red foxes can be predated upon by coyotes, bobcats, and eagles but this is rarely in order to eat foxes. Red foxes are important fur bearers; more are raised on farms than any other wild fur-bearing animal.
The most significant predators on foxes are humans who hunt foxes for sport or for their prized fur. Foxes are sometimes killed by humans as destructive pests or frequent carriers of rabies. When coyote populations decrease, fox populations increase.
The red fox’s resourcefulness, use extreme caution, and learn from experience quickly have earned it a legendary reputation for intelligence and cunning.