The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is one of North America's best known mammals. It is a ubiquitous symbol which has permeated virtually all geographic areas of our natural world.
General Description: The Red Fox resembles a small dog and has a beautiful reddish, rust colored coat. It's pelt was revered by trappers in the old west who sought fortune and solitude on the basis of manifest destiny. The fox is best known for its long bushy tail with a white tip, making it easily identifiable from your average canine. Males (referred to as 'Dogs') are generally larger than females (referred to as Vixens) and can range 3' - 4' long (excluding tail). Weight can vary between 10 - 15 pounds depending on location, range and general health of the animal.
While many are tempted to approach foxes due to their seemingly benign appearance and similarity to a domesticated dog, make no mistake - red foxes are wild animals and have been known to bite children and adults alike. Keep your distance and always enjoy wildlife from afar.
Diet and Hunting Techniques: Red foxes are highly adaptable animals and can survive in both city and wilderness environments. Part and parcel to their success is an indiscriminate diet. Primarily carnivores, they eat squirrel, mice, rabbits, birds and other small rodents. However, fox have been known to eat insects, snakes and human trash. In short, they will eat anything to survive. Fox will generally hunt at night, using their excellent sense of hearing and smell to ambush prey. It is not uncommon to see a fox play with its prey after a kill, tossing a mouse up in the air and chasing after it. Very few predators play with their food - the red fox, bobcat and killer whale being some examples. With an indiscriminate diet and naturally honed stalking techniques, the red fox is an efficient predator.
Life, Lifespan and Breeding: With wide habitat dispersion comes a variety of housing options. The red fox ideally prefers an underground den with multiple escape routes. The fox will also use abandoned dens of other animals such as badgers or prairie dogs, and will even camp out in hollow logs and tree stumps. It's common for foxes to move their dens from time to time in order to maintain safety.
The lifespan of a red fox in the wild is surprisingly short - only 2 - 4 years. Whereas red foxes have been known to live up to 15 years in captivity. But in the wilderness - harsh conditions, human predation and the natural food chain all take their toll on the red fox.
Foxes will generally mate in late winter or early spring with an average gestation period of around 50 - 52 days (give or take). There are typically 4 - 8 kits in a litter - born blind and helpless. The kits (or pups) will open their eyes about two weeks post-birth and live off the milk of their mother for the next two months. The mother keeps a close eye on her kits and doesn't let them out of the den until they are old enough to play outside (around three months old) and begin to practice and hunt on their own. While the mother will raise the kits alone for the first three months,
Both parents play a key role in teaching the young to hunt on their own. The male and female are known to bring live rodents to their kits in order to teach them to hunt. Depending on the local food supply, the maturing young foxes may never stray far from their birthing den and will maintain a home range of up to 5 square miles.