Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
The beautiful Red Fox is the most populous canid in the world. We are fortunate to have the Red Fox as one of the wild residents of Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, Beardsley Park, and perhaps even your own backyard.
Foxes are the smallest members of the dog family. Red Foxes vary in size geographically. Red Foxes in Canada and Alaska tend to be larger than those in Britain, but the ones in Britain tend to be larger than those in the southwestern United States.
There is a well-known expression “sly as a fox”. This comes from the fact that Red Foxes, in fact all foxes, are clever and known for their ability to adapt and puzzle through traps and silently approach prey.
Red Foxes have reddish-brown fur. Their long bushy tails are tipped with white fur. Their underparts are white, too, and they have black fur on the backs of their ears. Red Foxes have a slender muzzle and white fur on the top lip. The chest is white fur. Some Red Foxes have black fur near the eyes called tear marks.
Red Foxes average an overall length including head and body of 18 to 34 inches. The tail alone can be up to 21 inches long. Their weight ranges from 7 pounds to 24 pounds.
The Red Fox has such a distinctive bushy tail it is often called a brush or a sweep. The tail aids in balance and also serves as a warm cover when needed. The tail can also be used to signal other Red Foxes in the area. Red Foxes are crepuscular, which means they are most active at twilight.
During the colder weather, Red Foxes grow a thicker coat to keep them warm, which they shed when the weather warms. They live in dens, holes dug in the ground, under tree roots, and rock ledges, or they will move in to burrows abandoned by other animals. They may have several small dens in a territory and one larger main den for family life and winter living. Red Foxes often connect the dens with small tunnels.
Although they are members of the dog family, they lack the facial muscles necessary to bare their teeth in aggression. Their large, upright ears give them excellent hearing, and they are able to sprint, turn and jump with ease to surprise prey. Red Foxes have strong legs and they can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
Red Foxes communicate with body language and a variety of vocalizations. Its vocal range is quite large and its noises vary from a distinctive three-yip call to a shriek that sounds almost like a human scream. It also communicates with scent, marking food and territorial boundary lines. Red Foxes have been known to bury surplus prey for later consumption in shallow holes.
Red Foxes occasionally live in packs but most often they are solitary creatures. They hunt alone. During breeding season, a pair will form and stay together to act as parents to the newborn pups. Each year a litter of 2 to 12 pups are born. They are born blind and only weigh 1/3 of a pound each. They are brown or gray and develop the red coat by the end of the first month. The female and the pups stay in the den, called the “earth”, for two weeks and are fed by the male. By two weeks of age, the pups’ eyes open. At five weeks, they start exploring outside the den. By 10 weeks, they are fully weaned but they remain with the mother for 8 to 10 months. Both parents continue to care for the pups until they strike out on their own.
A male Red Fox is called a dog; a female is called a vixen. A young fox is called a kit, pup or cub. A group of foxes is called a skulk.
They live in a variety of environments from sand dunes to forests to urban environments.
The Red Fox can be found worldwide.
Omnivore although mainly Carnivore. Small mammals like rabbits and deer fawn, but Red Foxes also eat berries and plums.
The average life span is 3 years in the wild and up to 15 years in human care.