The beautiful red fox, with its bushy tail and dog-like features, lives throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Foxes are heavily persecuted for fur, sport and 'pest control', but at the same time they have thrived alongside humans in many urban and suburban areas.
Amazing Facts About the Red Fox
- A fox’s den is normally a burrow underground, also known as an ‘earth’, but they can also live above ground in a cosy hollow.
- While they are solitary animals, during breeding season (winter) when they court and mate, the dog fox will support the female (vixen) by bringing food for the family (early spring).
- You can often hear the mating calls, which is a sharp, high-pitched shrieking/screaming noise, which can sound quite terrifying.
- Vixens are occasionally assisted in rearing their cubs by a non-breeding sister or a female cub from a previous litter. These ‘aunts’ gain valuable experience which helps them to rear their own litter successfully the next season. Occasionally there can be two dog fox’s associated with one vixen.
- The cubs’ eyes and ears open after two weeks and at four weeks they will emerge from their dens. They have short noses which resemble puppies when born. However, many cubs die prematurely due to other predators (dogs, badgers), but their biggest killer is the motor vehicle. They also can die of starvation or cold during hard winters.
- They catch small rodents with a characteristic high pounce. This technique is one of the first things cubs learn as they begin to hunt.
- Foxes belong to the dog family, which includes wolves, coyotes, grey foxes, raccoon dogs and their relatives. All members of this family are incredibly adaptable animals, and this makes them successful colonisers in many areas of the world, practically in all habitats available and often in close proximity to humans.
- Foxes are great night-time predators because their eyes are specially adapted to night vision. Behind the light sensitive cells lies another layer called the tapetum lucidum which reflects light back through the eye. This doubles the intensity of images received by the fox. Their eyes glow green when light is shone into them at night.
- The fox does not chew its food. Instead it uses its carnassial or shearing teeth to cut the meat into manageable chunks.
- A fox’s range varies from 10 hectares in cities to over 2000 hectares in rural areas.
- They were introduced to Australia in the mid-19th century and are native to Europe, Asia and North Africa.
- There are native and non-native red foxes in North America; the native foxes are the Canadian Boreal Forest species that historically occurrs in the northern regions of North America. They colonised there shortly after the last glacial period, around 11,000 years ago. The non-native species were released by early European settlers for hunting purposes, as early as the mid 1700s.
- Foxes have whiskers on their legs as well as around their faces, which they use to help them find their way
- Foxes have also been known to climb trees and settle on low branches.
Relationship between Foxes and Humans
- Over the centuries the fox has been hunted for its fur (and its’ tail cut-off which is used as the hunters trophy, known as a ‘brush’).
- Hunting foxes with dogs by hunters on horseback was a traditional activity in the UK for many years, but it was banned in response to welfare concerns in 2002 in Scotland and 2004 in England and Wales.
- Foxes have a long association with humans. They are widely persecuted for fur, sport and ‘pest control’, but at the same time they have thrived in many urban and suburban areas.
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- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Carnivore: Earthworms, rabbits, birds, rodents, insects and fruit.
- Life Span: Average only 18 months to 2 years in the wild
- Size: Length: Dogs, 112cm, Vixens 108cm
- Weight: Dogs, 5.9kg, Vixens, 5.2kg
- Habitat: Very varied
- Range: Across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the steppes of Asia. Its range has increased alongside human expansion.
- Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes