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Red Fox

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Red Fox - Vulpes vulpes

Red Fox - Vulpes vulpes

Photo © Twildlife / iStockphoto.
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of all the true foxes. The red fox is a widespread carnivore that inhabits a range that includes most of the Northern Hemisphere. Red foxes have long bodies and short legs. They have a long tail that measures more than half of its body length. They have a narrow, elongated skull and a narrow snout. They have long canine teath and their premolars are spaced further apart than those of canine species. Their ears stand straight up and are quite large. Red foxes are the largest species in their genus but they are lightweight animals, dogs of a similar size are heavier.

Red foxes have relatively long dense fur that is very soft and sikly. Red foxes that occupy more northerly ranges have longer denser fur while those that occupy more southerly ranges have lighter, sparser, coarser hair.

Red foxes can have one of three different color morphs, red, silver/black, and a cross. Red morphs have coats that are rust-red with tawny or yellow tints.

Red foxes have binocular vision and well-honed hearing. Their sense of smell is also quite good but not as acute as that of dogs. Red foxes establish territories or home ranges. They mark their territory with urine. They are social mammals that live in famly groups that share joint territories.

Red foxes are monogomous. They reproduce in the spring. Gestation is between 49 and 58 days. Litter sizes are usually four to six kits although litters of up to a dozen kits are known. When they are born, kits are quite helpless—they are blind, deaf and toothless. They have dark brown fur and weigh less than 100 grams and measure about 15 cm in length. Their eyes open after about two weeks and during that period their ear canals also open and their teeth begin to emerge. At 3 or 4 weeks of age, they begin to eat solid food and lactation ends at about 7 weeks of age. The reach adult size at about six months of age.

Red foxes form groups that are headed by a mating pair. Other members of the group are young or the pair and they often help the parents raising additional new kits. RRed foxes, when not in the breeding season, spend their time in open space often seeking cover in dense vegetation. During harsh weather they often shelter in burrows. They dig burrows in the slopes of hills or ravines, bluffs or steep banks. Sometimes, throughout parts of their range they use the abandonned burrows of other mammals such as wolves or porcupines. The entrance of a red fox burrow slopes downard and widens into a den area. Burrows can be quite long, measuring on average as much as 7 meters.

Wolves present a threat to red foxes where their ranges overlap. In areas where red foxes coexist with coyotes, the two species often keep to their own territories and it is thought that foxes actively avoid coyotes.

Habitat:

Red foxes occupy a wide range that includes most of the northern hemisphere to the Actic Circle. This range extends southward to North Africa, Central America, and Asia. Red foxes are not present in Iceland, the Arctic islands and some areas in Siberia.

Diet:

Red foxes are omnivores. They have a varied diet but primarily feed on small mammals including voles, gerbils, deer mice, pocket gophers, hamsters, ground squirrels and mice. They also feed on rabbits and woodchucks. Red foxes eat some birds such as perching birds, galliformes and waterfowl. Other food includes porcupines, racoons, reptiles, insects and a variety of invertebrates. Occasionally red foxes also supplement their diet with vegetables, plants and fruit.
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