Photo by: Jerry Mercier
Species: Red fox
Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes
Description: The red fox is a small doglike mammal. They have a long bushy tail (can be 1/3 of its total size) with a light (often white) tip. Their face is long and pointed. Red foxes, are reddish orange in colour, with a white chest and belly, darker (often black) legs (back and front), and black on the back of the ears. This mammal also has a lot of variation in the colours, including a coyote colour phase, silver fox, and cross fox.
Habitat: The red fox have home ranges of 4-8 km2 around their den sites. They prefer open habitats that also have some brushy cover year round. They do not like extensively forested regions or lots of snowfall. They have adapted well to human settlements.
Breeding: Males (dog fox) and females (vixens) tend to be monogamous and will only have one mate for their whole life. Breeding season begins in late December and mid March. After breeding, the foxes will find den sites. Den sites are burrows, which the vixen digs herself or ma have been dug by a groundhog (woodchuck). Dens may also be caves, hollow logs, dense bush and even burrows under a barn or other structure. Dens tend to be situated in fields, near water and near forests edges. The foxes will use their dens for a number of years, and have a number of dens in their home range, and will move their kits (baby foxes) between dens. Fox kits, usually 1-10, are born in from March-May. Kits weigh 100g at birth, and will not open their eyes until their second week, and are weaned at 8-10 weeks old. Parents will bring the kits dead animals for food at first, and will then bring injured animals, teaching the kits to kill their prey. The parents will feed the kits at the den for two months and will take this time to train them how to stalk and hunt. Kits will continue to improve their hunting skills, under the watchful eye of their parents, and when they are able to feed themselves, about 3 months of age, will leave the den by themselves. The first winter the foxes will stay in heavy bush, if they can survive their first winter, they will find a territory and breed the following spring.
Diet: The red fox is an opportunistic predator. They will stalk their prey and pounce on it. Their diet can vary with season. Small mammals, including voles, mice, lemmings, squirrels, hares and birds make up the majority of their winter and fall diets. In the summer, they will also eat berries and insects, and birds eggs and chicks.
Threats to species: Humans are the greatest threat to the red fox. They are often considered a nuisance and are often in conflict with humans. Their natural predators include wolves, and coyotes. Foxes are also rabies carriers, and often get mange (fur mite).
Threat to humans: As foxes are a host to rabies, there is also a threat of human exposure to rabies.
Young male foxes (dog fox) have been found to travel 250 km to their new territory after leaving their parents.
Foxes depend on their eyesight, sense of smell and hearing to hunt. They can hear mice under snow, and smell rabbit nests hidden in long grass.
Foxes are sit and wait predators, they will sit patiently until their prey is within reach, and pounce, or quickly dig to locate prey.
Red fox have a reputation of being “chicken thieves” but they will only resort to eating chicken when they are the easiest food source and other food is scarce.
Hinterland Who’s Who- http://www.hww.ca/en/species/mammals/red-fox.html
Eder, Tamara, and Kennedy, Gregory. 2011. Mammals of Canada. Lorne Pine Publishing. Edmonton, Alberta.