Red Fox Fact File
The red fox has an elongated body with the fur colour being variable on top from reddish-brown to orange. The underside is white. Some red foxes have been found which are all-black or silver. On the top of their ears, the bottom of their legs and the nose are black. Across their body they have a thick coat of fur which helps them to keep warm in some of the cold environments which they call home.
They have a bushy tail which ends with a white tip. This can account for as much as half of their length measuring 32-49cm (12.5-19.5in) long.
A red fox will measure up to 90cm (35.5in) long and they stand 40cm (15.8in) tall at the shoulder. Their weight varies between 3 and 11kg (6.5-24lbs).
Red foxes are omnivorous. They feed on a wide range of prey species including insects, frogs, birds, eggs, mice, voles and carrion. Fruit and grain is also consumed.
They have been known to make use of human habitations and eat rubbish.
To catch this prey they will typically stalk it till it is close enough that they can chase after it before it can escape. They then carry their food to a hidden spot where they can consume the food without other animals stealing it.
Foxes have been known to kill animals seemingly for fun and then abandon it without eating the prey.
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The red fox has a wide natural range that is the largest of any extant member of the order carnivora. They cover the entire northern hemisphere across Asia, Europe and North America. The only areas they do not inhabit is Iceland, the Arctic islands and Siberia.
They are one of the most invasive species in Australia where they have spread across the entire continent since their introduction in the 1800s. Further they were introduced to the Falkland Islands and New Zealand. They were introduced to the Isle of Man though it is believed that this population did not establish and is not extinct.
It is believed they have gone extinct in Korea.
A full list of countries where they can be found is Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Holy See (Vatican City State), Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sudan, Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
Due to their wide range the red fox can be found in a range of highly diverse habitats including tundra, desert, mountains, forests, shrubland, grasslands and wetlands.
With the expansion of human habitations they are increasingly found making use of farmland and even urban areas.
Mating takes place in winter. Pairs form a territory which they defend together and the male and female will work together to raise the cubs.
Following a successful mating the female prepares her den. The gestation period is 2 months.
In the den a female will give birth to an average of four to six cubs. Extremely large litters of up to twelve cubs have been recorded.
At birth the pups are colored grey or brown and will develop their red coloration after a month. They weigh just 100g (3.5oz).
For the first few weeks of the cubs life the female remains with them constantly to provide milk and relies on the male to bring her food. Non-breeding females may also live with the pair and help raise the cubs including bringing the mother food.
Weaning takes place at between 6 and 12 weeks old.
The pups receive care until the fall when they go out on their own.
Sexual maturity is reached at 10 months old.
A group of red foxes is made up of a male and female who remain together year round. They maintain a home territory which is marked with urine, feces and scent from various scent glands on their body. On occasion additional females may be accepted in to a group but only the dominant female will breed.
Depending on where they live they may be active by day or night.
They have excellent eyesight and hearing to help find food. They are able to hear a rodent digging underground.
Predators and Threats
While highly abundant across most of their range and having large introduced populations in some regions the red fox is still threatened in parts of their range.
This is primarily due to habitat loss or degradation and hunting both for sport and their fur.
They rival the American mink as the most farmed animal for their fur.
Populations of the red fox have also benefited from the removal of other large carnivores such as the puma from urban areas. This action removes a potential threat to them and food competitor allowing them to thrive.
A male red fox is known as a dog while the female is called a vixen.
In introduced regions the red fox is quickly able to adapt and soon threatens other species through competition or predation. In Australia they are a major contributor to the decline of native animals and complicate recovery efforts for many species.
Slater, P. and Parish, S., 2016. First Field Guide To Australian Mammals. 1st ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley, p.168.
Genomics.senescence.info. 2020. Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes) Longevity, Ageing, And Life History. [online] Available at: <https://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Vulpes_vulpes> [Accessed 1 August 2020].
Hoffmann, M. & Sillero-Zubiri, C. 2016. Vulpes vulpes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T23062A46190249. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T23062A46190249.en. Downloaded on 01 August 2020.
National Wildlife Federation. 2020. Red Fox | National Wildlife Federation. [online] Available at: <https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Red-Fox> [Accessed 1 August 2020].
Rafferty, J., 2020. Red Fox | Diet, Behaviour, & Adaptations. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/animal/red-fox-mammal> [Accessed 1 August 2020].
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