Fox Presentation · PDF file crepuscular, it can also be active during the day. This behavior...
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Saving Lives with a Little Natural
… in this case, the Red Fox
Virginia State Licensed Rehabilitator
President, Wilderness Wildlife Rehabilitation
• General Description
• Feeding Habits
– Diet and hunting skills
• Life Cycle
– Birth and development
Receiving Calls Related to the Red Fox
• Winning the caller’s confidence
• Scanning the landscape
• Placing the caller’s concerns in perspective
• Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
• Phylum: Chordata (i.e. has a backbone)
• Class: Mammalia (mammals)
• Order: Carnivora (possesses true canine teeth)
• Family: Canidae (dogs)
• Genus: Vulpes (the Latin word for “fox”)
• Species: vulpes
Vulpes vulpes (red fox)
• One of the largest ranges of any land animal. It
– Almost all of N. America north of Mexico
– Common throughout Europe and parts of North
– Most of Asia
– In addition, it has been
introduced to several
Pacific Islands, and to the
continent of Australia in 1845
They are known to live in a wide range of
environments including forest, marshes,
desert shrubland, prairies, and the arctic
tundra, not to mention suburban and urban
Photo: Rob Lee
General Description: Weight ranges from 8 to
17 pounds depending on the region. In higher
latitudes such as Alaska and Canada they tend
to be larger. Very large red fox can weigh up to
Thesilvercoyote.net Colors: Most common are reddish tone to
dark chestnut with a white chin, white upper
lip, white underside, black ears, black feet and
legs, and black nose. Other various color
phases including silver fox and cross fox
appear in litters of normal reds.
Eyes: Gold to yellow and have distinctive
vertical/slit pupils, similar to those of
Tail: Red fox has a bushy tail that accounts for one-
third of his body length. It is used for insulation while
sleeping, a tool for communication, balance for
movement, and has a white tip that distinguishes it
from other canids.
Feet: The red fox’s feet are canine though somewhat small. Forepaws have five toes and hind paws have four. Their agility is enhanced by their semi-retractable claws.
Ear: Red foxes have triangular shaped ears that
move continually to improve reception
Red fox employs 42 teeth within in elongated muzzle.
Canines which hold prey, incisors for cutting and
shearing meat, and molars for grinding bones and
Diet: Foxes are true omnivores. Their vegetarian side may
include grasses, grains, fungi, berries and fruit. On the
carnivorous side, diet may consist of insects (especially
grasshoppers), rodents (mice, voles), rabbits, birds, eggs,
amphibians and small reptiles, fish, earthworms, carrion, and
In urban areas, red foxes will also scavenge on
human refuse and will eat from pet food
bowls left outside. An opportunist, red fox diet
tends to vary directly to what’s available.
Hunting: Red foxes are solitary hunters. Their acute sense of
hearing allows them to locate small mammals in thick grass,
under growth or deep snow, within a few inches. They will
then launch themselves at a 45 degree angle into the air to
pounce on their prey .
Red fox will also stalk prey such as rabbits and squirrels,
keeping hidden until close enough to catch them in a short
dash. However, its strong legs allow it to reach speeds up to
Behavior: Although the red fox is primarily described as
crepuscular, it can also be active during the day. This behavior
can be observed while raising their kits and during the cold
Red fox generally claims its own territory, pairing up only in
winter and foraging alone in the summer. Red fox may
maintain territories as large as 4-5 square miles, but sightings
of red fox sustaining a family on as little as an acre in urban
areas occur as well.
Several dens are utilized within these territories. Dens may be
claimed from animals such as woodchucks. Larger dens are
used for winter months and for rearing young. Smaller dens
are used for emergencies and to store excess food. Those
dens are sometimes connected. In addition to an entrance,
their dens will always have an exit.
Dens may be located in various areas, including fields, edge of
forests, deserts, under porches, or old barns, but always
located near a water source.
Jo and Jeff
Foxes mark their territory by recognition posts that are special
smells that come from a scent gland located just above the
fox’s tail. Red fox cannot spray like a skunk and does not use
this secretion as a defense.
Red foxes primarily form monogamous pairs each winter. Both
parents will cooperate to raise a litter of kits each year.
Socially the fox communicates with body language and a
variety of vocalizations. Noises may vary from a distinctive
three-yip “where are you” call, to a shriek that sounds like a
human scream. They also communicate with scent, marking
food and territorial boundary lines with urine and feces.
Life cycle: Birth and development: Due to its broad
distribution, red fox breeding period varies between
December and March, depending on the location. Females
have an annual estrous period of between one and six days.
Although a female may mate with several males, she will
eventually settle with only one.
Generally, gestation period varies between 49 to 54 days. After
the kits are born, the mother will stay with them to nurse and
to keep them warm until their eyes open ~ about 10 days.
During this period, the male will bring food to her and leave it
at the front of the den.
At birth, fox pups weigh 3-4 ounces (85 to 110 grams). Litters
average four to nine young, five being the norm. They are
dark grayish/brown in color. Kits develop rapidly, tripling their
weight in ten days.
Kit’s bluish grey eyes open by the second week and the mother is able to
leave them for brief periods of time. By the third week, they are able to
move around and start fighting among themselves to establish an order of
dominance. By the fourth week, weaning begins and kits are fed partially
digested food, regurgitated by their parents. Mother still nurses her
young, but starts to discourage them from suckling.
By the fifth week, they start to explore the outside of the den.
At this time, they are a sandy grey-brown color that
camouflages them well in their new surroundings. A hierarchy
amongst the kits has been established and they are now
enjoying the most carefree times of their lives.
At six and seven weeks, they are much bolder and start
pouncing on leaves and sticks, and roughhousing with their
siblings. They frequently stalk and chase one another, and
some rivalry is still present. The play is needed to learn
hunting and fighting techniques needed later in life.
By the second month, kits are fully weaned, and by the third
month, they are able to catch small prey such as insects.
Summer arrives, their grey coat has turned reddish and their
eyes, the golden color of adults.
In addition to play, the kits accompany their parents on
hunting trips to sharpen their skills.
At six months, the red fox is fully grown and has most of its skills to
survive. In autumn, fox kits begin to disperse and find their own
territories, males leaving first. In some cases, one or more juvenile
vixens will remain with their parents for a year. They are referred to
as “helper vixens”. They are non-breeding and will help to bring food
to their younger siblings the following year. When foxes disperse,
they will either take over another fox’s territory, or find one of their
own. At this point the cycle begins again.
Natural predators of the red fox can include (depending on
the region) bears, domesticated dogs, eagles, hawks, owls,
wolves and coyotes. Foxes are subject to diseases such as
distemper, sarcoptic mange, and rabies, and more