The red fox's fur is pale yellowish red to
deep reddish brown on the upper parts and white,
ashy or slaty on the underside. The lower part of
the legs is usually black and the tail usually
has a white or black tip. There are two common
color variants. Cross foxes have reddish brown
fur with a black stripe down the back and another
across the shoulders. Silver foxes range from
strong silver to nearly black and are the most
prized by furriers. The eyes are yellow, and the
nose is dark brown or black.
With a length of up to 36 inches (not counting
the tail, which can be 22 inches long) and weight
of up to 24 pounds, this is the largest fox in
the world. Populations in southern deserts and in
North America are smaller than European
populations. Body mass and length among
populations also varies with latitude, with
northern ones being larger.
Red foxes have excellent senses of vision,
smell, and touch. The tail, which is known as a
brush, can be used by the fox as a warm cover in
The red fox has the widest distribution of any
wild carnivore, being found throughout most of
the northern hemisphere from the Arctic circle to
Central America, the steppes of central Asia, and
northern Africa. It has also been introduced to
Australia and the Falkland Islands.
With such a wide distribution, it is little
surprise that the red fox inhabits a wide range
of habitats including forest, tundra, prairie,
desert, mountains, farmlands, and urban areas,
from sea level to about 14,760 feet. It prefers
mixed vegetation communities, such as edge
habitats and mixed scrub and woodland, however.
Habits and Behaviors
Unlike most canids, the red fox is primarily
Ranges are occupied by an adult male and one
or two adult females with their associated young.
Individuals and family groups have main earthen
dens and often other emergency burrows in the
home range. Dens of other animals, such as
rabbits or marmots, are often taken over by
foxes. Larger dens may be dug and used during the
winter and during birth and rearing of the young.
The same den is often used over a number of
generations. Pathways throughout the home range
connect the main den with other resting sites,
favored hunting grounds, and food storage areas.
Animals remain in the same home range for life.
Range size varies depending on quality of
habitat, being larger in poorer habitats.
Twenty-eight different kinds of vocalizations
have been 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. They also
use facial expressions and scent marking
Red foxes prey on voles, rabbits, hares, and
other small mammals, as well as birds and
invertebrates (especially beetles and
earthworms). They will also eat carrion and items
scavenged from dustbins, bird tables, and compost
heaps. Red foxes have a characteristic manner of
hunting mice. The fox stands motionless,
listening and watching intently for a mouse it
has detected. It then leaps high and brings the
forelimbs straight down forcibly to pin the mouse
to the ground.
Red foxes also store food, and are very good
at relocating their caches.
Mating behavior varies substantially. Males
(dogs) and females (vixens) are usually
monogamous, but males with multiple female mates
are also known, as are male/female pairs that use
non-breeding female helpers in raising their
young. Females mated to the same male fox may
share a den. Red fox groups always have only one
breeding male, but that male may also seek mating
outside of the group.
Breeding season varies according to geography;
December-January in the south, January-February
in the central regions, and February-April in the
Just before and for a time after giving birth
the female remains in or around the den. The male
partner will provision his mate with food but
does not go into the maternity den. Gestation is
typically between 51 and 53 days. Litters vary in
size from 1 to 13 kits, with an average of 5. The
kits are born blind, but open their eyes 9 to 14
days after birth. Kits leave the den 4 or 5 weeks
after birth, and are fully weaned by 8 to 10
weeks. The mother begins feeding her kits
regurgitated food, but eventually she will bring
them live prey to "play" with and eat.
The kits leave their mother when they are
about seven months old.
genus & species Vulpesvulpes
Animal Diversity Web http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Vulpes_vulpes/
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