Red foxes, vulpes vulpes, are striking creatures. Their head and body measure 18 to 33.75 inches (46 to 86 centimeters) while their tail can grow 12 to 21.75 inches (30.5 to 55.5 centimeters) in length. They also weigh 6.5 to 24 pounds with males usually being slightly larger than females. Male red foxes are called dogs while females are called vixens. Some can be silver, black, golden brown or some kind of cross between them. Most however, have a reddish orange coat and all of them have black legs, ears and a long, white-tipped bushy tail. They are a surprisingly short-lived species and only survive 2 to 4 years in the wild.
Red foxes can be found in North America, Europe, Asia, North Africa and Australia. They live in a variety of habitats such as forests, grasslands, deserts and mountains. They will even live in human environments like farms, suburban areas and even large communities. Their ability to adapt to so many diverse environments has earned the red fox a legendary reputation for being intelligent and cunning. They are mostly nocturnal, although it is not uncommon to see them strolling about during the day.
The red foxes’ diet is as varied as its habitat. They eat things like fish, frogs, worms, rabbits, birds, eggs, small rodents, squirrels, chickens, woodchucks, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and insects. They will even eat carrion, pet food and garbage should the opportunity present itself. Red foxes are good hunters and use their exceptional sight, smell and hearing abilities to catch their prey. In fact, unlike other mammals, they are able to hear low frequency sounds that let them locate small animals even if they are underground. Even if they are not hungry, they will continue to hunt and gather food for their next meal. They partially bury excess food and cover it with leaves, soil, grass or snow and then mark it with urine.
Red foxes mate from January to March and will only dig and use dens during this time. They usually dig these dens in sand or soil and will make more than one entrance in case of any danger. Females will give birth to a litter of anywhere from 2 to 12 (although it is usually around 4 to 5) pups after a gestation period of 51 to 53 days. Red fox pups are fed their mother’s milk for about one month and begin to eat pre-chewed food. The pups are able to hunt and will leave their parents at about 7 months of age in search of their own territory. Some will travel as far as 155 miles (250 kilometers) in search of a suitable home.
Confrontations with red foxes are unavoidable. They do share space with humans and will steal chickens from farmers or pet food from pets. Some are killed because of this, but with a little effort, a better solution can surely be found. After all, such an adaptable and resourceful creature deserves to live far into the future.
“Red Fox” 18 November 2010
“Fast Facts: Red Fox” 18 November 2010
“Red Fox” 18 November 2010