Red foxes are incredibly widespread mammals in the fox family. They are the largest member of the true fox, or taxonomical genus Vulpes. Other true foxes include the Arctic fox, fennec fox, Bengal fox, and more. Read on to learn about the red fox.
Description of the Red Fox
Red foxes have a long body and tail, covered in red fur. They also appear in a number of color morphs like silver, black, platinum, and more. They have black fur on their feet, the tips of their ears, and a distinctive white tuft at the end of the tail. These foxes have rather elongated muzzles, and long, sharp canine teeth.
Interesting Facts About the Red Fox
These foxes are known for being cunning and skilled predators. They are notorious for finding their way into livestock pens and chicken coops. Despite their frequent conflicts with humans, these creatures are amazingly intelligent, and should be appreciated.
- Excellent Athletics – These a animals are incredible athletes. They are very swift creatures, and can run up to 31 miles per hour! In addition to their speed, they can easily leap over a six-foot fence, and are even capable of swimming quite efficiently.
- A Fox’s Tale – Red foxes have luxuriously fluffy tails. Not only are their tails soft and furry, but they are also extremely long! In fact, foxes’ tails can be up to 70% of their entire body length.
- Hop to It! – While hunting small rodents, foxes love to employ a high pounce. They leap up into the air, and bring their front paws down on the prey. This is a common occurrence in snow. Foxes will listen acutely for the sound of mice moving under the snow, and they will leap into the air and down through the snow to catch their meal.
- Slice and Dice – Instead of chewing their food, foxes will swallow small prey items whole. For larger meals, they use sharp molars to slice off more manageable chunks. These sharpened, slicing molars are called “carnassial teeth.”
Habitat of the Red Fox
Foxes are incredibly well-adapted. They can survive in a large number of different habitats, and can even be considered and urban animal. Some common ecosystems that foxes frequent include forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains, and suburban developments.
Distribution of the Red Fox
Red foxes can be found across the entire northern hemisphere. They are incredibly widespread, and the only areas they cannot be found in are Iceland, extreme deserts, some areas of Siberia, and the Arctic islands. Red foxes can be found from the Artic circle all the way to North Africa, Asia, and Central America.
Diet of the Red Fox
Red foxes are omnivores, which means they will eat both animals and plants. They are generalist feeders, and will eat many different species of animals and plants. Their favorite prey is small mammals, and they will commonly eat mice, rats, voles, ground squirrels, woodchucks, gerbils, and gophers. They’ve also been known to capture small birds, reptiles, opossums, rabbits, porcupines, and even small deer.
These animals have also been known to eat quite a few species of grasses, fruits, and roots. Some of their favorite fruits and seeds are apples, grapes, blueberries, plums, acorns, raspberries, and mulberries. They will also munch on flowering plants, potatoes and other tubers, grass, and more.
Red Fox and Human Interaction
Humans and red foxes don’t mix well. Because they are such skilled hunters, and will prey on just about anything they can catch, farmers don’t appreciate them very much. Hunters also conflict with foxes, because they prey on game bird species. They are widely viewed as pests by humans, and have been historically targeted in hunts.
Fox hunts were historically conducted with dogs, and humans rode horseback to capture and kill the foxes. Many hunts were conducted with animals that were previously captured, and released specifically for the purpose of hunting down.
While they were hunted as pets, and for sport, they are also hunted for their luxurious pelts. Fox pelts are among the most commonly-harvested coat in the fur trade. Fox pelts are sold for over $65 per pelt at wholesale, and can make up nearly half of the wild-caught pelts sold out of the United States.
While red foxes are not a domesticated species, there has been a domestication project in place for foxes. In 1959 a Russian geneticist conducted an experiment with “silver morph” red foxes raised at a fur farm.
These foxes were selectively bred generation after generation for friendly and tame qualities. After ten generations the foxes began to naturally show signs of friendliness towards humans. The animals that became “domesticated” also developed physical changes like floppy ears, curled tails, and piebald colorations.
Does the Red Fox Make a Good Pet
Wild red foxes do not make good pets. They are wild animals, and usually become quite unmanageable as they mature, especially when they reach sexual maturity. Russian domesticated red foxes, while domesticated, can still be difficult pets and should be thoroughly researched before purchasing.
Red Fox Care
In zoos, red foxes must be provided with plenty of room to exercise. They are very athletic creatures, and any exhibit must be equipped to properly contain them. Their diet should also be replicated as closely as possible. They require a high percentage of protein in their diet, and should be fed accordingly.
Because they are omnivorous they should also be fed carbohydrates as well. An example diet includes grain-free dog food, cooked chicken or turkey, raw eggs and chicken gizzards but different facilities have different diet compositions. Foxes are extremely intelligent, and must be provided with plenty of environmental enrichment to be happy and healthy. A bored fox is a troublesome fox!
Behavior of the Red Fox
When outside of the breeding season, red foxes generally live out in the open, in areas with dense vegetation for cover. They will occasionally seek refuge in burrows to escape bad weather, but will generally free roam during this time.
They do dig a permanent den, or burrow, that can last for years at a time if the location is optimal. They live in small families, with a dominant male, a dominant female, and a few subordinate animals that are usually previous offspring.
Reproduction of the Red Fox
During the breeding season the dominant male and female will reproduce. The female has a gestation period of 49 – 58 days, and gives birth to 4 – 6 young on average. The baby foxes, called “kits,” are blind, toothless, and deaf at birth. She will give birth to her kits in the den, and remain with them for 2 – 3 weeks while the father hunts for food.
After this, the kits will begin to leave the den and start eating solid foods. By 7 weeks old, the kits are weaned from milk entirely. They will remain with the family at least until they reach sexual maturity at 9 – 10 months old, sometimes longer.
Beliefs, Superstitions, and Phobias About the Red Fox
Foxes are prominent in mythology around the world, from Greek mythology to Chinese folklore. Greek mythology tells of a Cadmean vixen who was a giant fox that was never able to be captured.
Foxes were viewed as tricksters in Celtic mythology, and Chinese folklore contains huli jing spirits that could be good or evil. This prevalence is found throughout cultures in areas where foxes are commonly found.