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Wolves Dogs Coyotes Jackals and Foxes: Canidae

Red Fox (vulpes Vulpes): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The largest of all foxes, the red fox is reddish brown with a white- or black-tipped bushy tail. It weighs 6 to 15 pounds (2.7 to 6.8 kilograms). The snout, backs of the ears, and the lower legs and feet are black. Sensitive, pointed ears can detect prey from 150 feet (45 meters) away. Sensitive whiskers guide the fox in inflicting a killing bite on the prey's body.

Geographic range: The most widely distributed of all canids, the red fox is found in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe (except Iceland), and Asia.

Habitat: Red foxes prefer a mixture of woodlands and open areas. They thrive in the tundra and desert, where they prey on animals foraging for food at night. They live close to humans in farmlands, the suburbs, and cities, where rabbits, rodents, and garbage pits abound.

Diet: Red foxes prefer rodents but also feed on rabbits, squirrels, insects, earthworms, birds, and carrion. They eat fruits and human

Red foxes are active at dusk, night, and dawn, and do their hunting then. They hunt for animals such as these arctic ground squirrels. (Erwin and Peggy Bauer/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

leftovers. Foxes eat about 1 to 3 pounds (0.5 to 1.5 kilograms) of food a day. When full, they continue to hunt for prey, but unlike wolves who gorge themselves, foxes cache (store in a hidden place) excess food. They bury the food in a hole, occasionally digging it up, then reburying it.

Behavior and reproduction: Red foxes are crepuscular (kri-PUS-kyuh-lur; active at dawn and dusk) and nocturnal (active at night), timing their foraging habits with those of their prey. They live alone, except when breeding. Males and females pair off in late winter or early spring, producing five to thirteen kits. Fathers provide food to the family, and nonbreeding daughters or sisters may share the den and help in child rearing. Red foxes are playful creatures, engaging in games of chasing and mock fighting.

Red foxes and people: Red foxes are prized for their fur and for the sport of fox hunting. However, a love-hate relationship exists between foxes and humans. Some suburbanites treat them as pets, putting out food for them. Others detest them for stealing house pets and livestock.

Conservation status: The red fox is not a threatened species. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsWolves Dogs Coyotes Jackals and Foxes: Canidae - Physical Characteristics, Canids And People, Gray Wolf (canis Lupus): Species Accounts, Red Fox (vulpes Vulpes): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION, CONSERVATION S