Red fox



The red fox is found in North Dakota and the rest of the United States.  The red fox, the largest in the fox family, has extended its range northward with global warming and is taking over territory from the arctic fox.  Red foxes are also found in Europe, Asia and North Africa.

Welcome to our Red Fox website!

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) Fun Facts

  • The Red Fox has the largest territory of any canine species and is found in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia
  • Their forepaws have 5 claws, their feet have 4 claws
  • They can jump 6 feet into the air
  • Males can weight up to 30 pounds, females are smaller
  • They hear very well and can detect mice squeaking 100 years away
  • Fox babies (kits, pups or cubs) are born in the spring and there is often a litter of 4 to 6 although litter sizes up to 13 can occur
  • They live an average of 5 years in the wild, up to 15 at zoos
  • Their den (home) can be as deep as 8 feet and as long as 56 feet
  • Red fox are tidy housekeepers until they have babies then they are not tidy housekeepers and leave pieces of food around their den as compare to badgers who have a tidy den
  • They eat small rodents such as mice but also eat rabbits and pheasants




I am So Happy to See You!


This red fox kit greated mom as she returned to the den in the evening while the other kits concentrated on nursing.


Is it My Turn?


These red fox kits asked their mom if they could have a turn at nursing.



Yes, It is Your Turn!


These red fox kits were able to join the others.  The red fox mom is able to feed 8 babies at a time.



You Can't Catch Me!


These red fox kits enjoyed playing after nursing.



How Many Baby Foxes Can You Count?



One (1) Baby Fox


Two (2) Baby Foxes



Three (3) Baby Foxes



Four (4) Baby Foxes


Five (5) Baby Foxes



Six (6) Baby Foxes


Seven (7) Baby Foxes



Eight (8) Baby Foxes


Nine (9) Baby Foxes


Ten (10) Baby Foxes



Eleven (11) Baby Foxes


Twelve (12) Baby Foxes


Photographs were taken in evening on two days on private land in 2017 with permission of owner in Burleigh County.  Two dens were located next to each other which resulted in the large number of babies.



Good Job Counting Baby Foxes!!




Scratching



Showing Teeth



What should we do?


We like to play!



Time to get up!



Your nose is cute!



What should we do now?



Let's go back to the den!



Playing with food!



Exploring!



I can jump!


Keeping my nose clean!



I like to go walking!


Playing!


Time to get up!



Do you see that bird flying?



What should we do now?


I have an itch!


Hey, do you want to go play!



Yawning



Snuggling



Come out and play!


We like to explore.



Can I have that feather?



I like to play keep away!


Smell my paw!


My teeth are sharp!



Playing with food!



Exploring!



Really High!


Time to stretch!



What is that!


Playing!


Give me five!



One kit is taller than the other!


I can see you!


So do I!


Too much to look at!



Can I tell you a secret?



Feathers don't taste good!


Ha, Ha, That is funny!



Exploring!



I am tired, time for a nap!


Exploring!



It sure was fun talking about our day!


Red foxes kits are born in the spring.  A red fox baby often has three to to five brothers and sisters, although some families are larger.  The mom and dad help raise the kits together.  When they are born, they can't see or hear and are entirely dependent on their parents.  Mom nurses the kits for 2 months.  By 1 month of age, the kits are ready to leave the den and eat solid food.   In the wild, foxes live to be about 5 years, in zoos, they can live almost 15 years.

Red Foxes of the Northern Plains

by

Stephen McDonough MD


The red fox is the land carnivore with the greatest distribution in the world.  North America, Europe, Asia and northern Africa have red foxes as does Australia, although the latter is due to manmade introduction.  The red fox is found in much of the United States, Canada and Alaska, although not common in the southwest.


Red foxes prefer varied landscapes such as differing croplands, pastures and brush.  They do not like dense forests.  Mice, voles, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and insects are favorite foods, basically they will eat what they can find, including fruits and berries.  They are both scavenger and hunter.  The fox uses a jumping technique to spring up to 5 yards away and land directly on top of its prey when hunting small mammals such as mice and voles.  Red foxes also can stalk and sprint to catch rabbits and hares.

 

Red foxes will store food in catches which helps them cope with an uneven food supply.  When times are tough, they survive on their food storage.  The food cache is made by digging a shallow hole, burying the food and then covering with leaves and branches.  Red foxes carefully use their nose to pack several inches of dirt over the cache and have been known to cover their tracks in the snow when leaving the cache.  Foxes remember the general area of the cache and use their nose to relocate the hidden food.  Birds such as magpies and ravens will follow foxes and try to rob the caches.


Red foxes are most active at dawn and dusk when their prey is also most active.  During the winter, foxes are active during the day as the mice and voles move under the snow.


Red foxes have excellent hearing and are adept at picking up the noises of small mammals moving in the brush, leaves or under the snow.  They are able to locate their prey within inches by their acute hearing.


Red foxes prefer to hunt on the edges between forest or brush and meadows, pastures or prairie.  Their preferred food sources can be found here along with opportunities to use their stealth, stalking and jumping techniques.  Red fox families can do well with just a couple of square miles or territory while wolf packs require 100 square mile territories.


The red fox family consists of an adult male and female (vixen), sometimes an older female daughter, and the babies (cubs, pups or kits).  Male kits usually leave the family before 1 year of age and try to establish their own family.  Territories vary in size depending on amount of food, scarce supplies result in larger territories.


Male and females begin courting during January and February and paired tracks in the snow can be seen.  The vixen cleans out several dens during this time.  The den is chosen on sandy soil, often on a hillside, often in a forest but near an open meadow.  There are several openings to the den which is often within 100 yards of a water source.  Dens can be used year after year.


The den is dug by the fox family or modified from an abandoned badger burrow.  Mating occurs during the winter with pups born in the spring after a gestation of 51 to 53 days.  Litter size averages 5 with a range of 1 to 13.  The kits weigh about 6 ounces at birth and their eyes open about 2 weeks of age.  Their color is charcoal gray at birth.  At two weeks the vixen can leave the den for hunting and the kits can maintain their body temperature in the den.  At 1 month, the kits will begin fighting among themselves and establishing a pecking order from alpha to the omega.  They are nursed for 2 to 2 ½ months.  In early May, the kits are be seen for varying periods of time outside the den.  They become more social and playful.  At 5 weeks of age, their coat becomes lighter and matches more the surrounding dirt.  Red fox hairs become evident and they begin to look more like their parents.  By June in the Northern Plains, kits are accompanying their parents on hunting trips.  By September to October, the kits have left the family, except some females may remain and assist in child raising next spring.


Red fox kits stay in or near the den for the first 3 ½ months of life.  During this time, the kits are nurses or the parents bring food for them.  It is not known if the foxes are monogamous for life or for a season but the male plays an important role of defending the territory and bringing food for the nursing vixen and for the kits.  Males are slightly larger than females and both are very similar in appearance with the exception of well-hidden male genitals.


Adults generally weigh between 7 to 25 pounds and can have a total length of 30 to 57 inches.  Red foxes have 42 teeth.  They have a huge tail which is nearly as long as their body.  Red foxes are extremely agile and can run up to 30 mph in dense brush.  They have a light bone structure which helps them be fleet of foot (or paws).

 

The pecking order established in the den may continue in adult life.  When a subordinate adult approaches an alpha, low crouching, crawling, whining and tail wagging behaviors can be seen.       


Photography Tips with Red Foxes


It is good to have friends who are willing to share information.  I was tipped off by a fellow photographer on the location of two fox dens near Bismarck and another by a social media friend.   I reciprocated later in the year by leading my photographer friend to a badger burrow with an active badger.  A car or portable blind was used to photograph kits near the den.  The location of the dens is a well-kept secret due to the desire to minimize visitations and disruptions to the fox families.

 

The longest lens possible is recommended to put adequate space between the foxes and the photographer and minimize interference.


If the vixen gets upset with the photographer getting too close, she will get the kits up in the middle of the night and march them to a secondary den which the photographer will be unlikely to find.

 

Conclusion


Red fox kits are playful and inquisitive as they learn skills necessary for their survival.  They exhibit many behaviors seen in young dogs including yawing, stretching, cuddling, licking, play fighting, hunting, exploring and digging caches.  Red foxes are highly successful carnivores who have adapted to many different environments throughout the world.


References

  1. J David Henry, 1996, Red Fox: The Catlike Canine, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC
  2. Wilson DE and Ruff, edt., 1999, The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC   


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