Species spotlight: Red Fox

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is a small, dog-like animal, though it is often thought of as a feline.

With a reddish-yellow body and upper face, it’s easy to see where this animal gets its colorful name. They have black nose pads and foot pads. Their mostly reddish tails are tipped with white on the very ends.

Adult red foxes weigh between 8 and 14 pounds, with a total length of 3 to 4 feet, including the tail, which typically measures 12 to 17 inches long.

These animals have populations in every U.S. state except Hawaii. They thrive throughout the southeastern states, with the only exceptions being the extreme southeast tips of Louisiana and Florida.

With a keen sense of sight, smell and hearing, red foxes are adept at staying hidden. They are easily startled and avoid contact with humans as much as possible. Amongst their own species, they are very playful and have a high level of endurance.

Opportunistic feeders

These are highly social animals. Groups of them are called skulks. They mate for life and are very intelligent.

Red foxes are opportunistic feeders. They are too small to take down deer or livestock, but they will feed on such animals if they happen across already dead ones. Their main diets consist of small mammals like rabbits, mice, and squirrels.

Wild birds, snakes, grasshoppers and lizards are also important parts of their diet. They also eat lots of fruits and berries.

Red foxes don’t usually climb trees, but they will jump onto low branches of certain trees. And they are known to learn how to climb trees and do so readily when frequently encountering gray foxes, which are natural tree climbers. This learned behavior is amplified when paired with gray foxes in captivity.

Nicknames

Red foxes have several nicknames throughout their range, including scarlett fox, dog fox and sly fox.

They prefer living in mixed wooded areas with nearby open fields and water sources such as rivers, streams or ponds.

Their mouths contain 42 teeth, but they do not chew their food. They tear pieces of food off, then swallow those pieces whole. When they have leftovers, they often bury them.

Red foxes breed sometime between late winter or early spring. It takes about 53 days to give birth, and litters can range from two to 10 pups. Adult males and females team up to raise the pups, which are usually weaned around 2 months.

About Brian Cope 163 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.

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