Common Name: Red Fox
Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Population: ~7.2+ million
Average Life Span: 2-4 years
Length: Head & Body 18-33.75 inches; tail: 12-21.75 inches
Height: ~1-1.3+ feet
Weight: 4.9-31+ pounds
Red Fox – Vulpes vulpes
Currently, the red fox is in a stable and prosperous state. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which keeps track of endangered species currently lists the red fox as “least concern” a great status for this incredible species.
The 2012 census of the red fox determined that there are now more than 7.2 million red foxes roaming this planet and growing throughout the majority of all continental mainland.
FoxesWorlds predicts that the estimated population now in 2020 is over 9 million red foxes and counting. While the potential of a population decline is possible, young fox pups are usually the main target for wolves, coyotes, and other predators, read more about predators to the red fox below.
The largest species of fox is known as the Red Fox or in scientific terms the “vulpes vulpes”. When you think of a fox, the red fox is likely the one to pop up in your imagination. This is due to their gorgeous red colored fur, and the abundance of this little creature. As you can imagine the name “Red Fox” is derived from their bright colored fur.
The red fox is also commonly associated with shades of orange, brown, and like colors that can vary from fox to fox. Their silky coat is often shiny giving it a nice glimmer as they move around. In fact, their coats were once a prime reason why these beautiful creatures were heavily hunted.
While the weight of a red fox will vary on a case to case basis the average male is about 14 pounds with the females just a couple of pounds lighter. Apart from their weight the red fox has an extraordinarily long and bushy tail, covering about 30% of its body.
This being another perfect indicator to tell surrounding viewers that what they are seeing speeding by, is in fact, a red fox. Full grown, the males are about 1.3 feet tall followed by the females standing at about 1 foot.
Taking a look at the anatomy of the Red Fox it becomes quickly clear why these animals are able to obtain the speed, sleekness, and more based purely off the build and characteristics of their bodies.
The Red Fox has pads on the bottom of its paws allowing it to move with ease in any type of terrain, including grass, rocks, snow and more. They have sharp claws on the tips of their toes that stay out at all times and do not retract. These claws help them capture prey, fight off predators, dig dens, and get food to bring back to their homes. Their bodies are long, slender, and build for speed, allowing them to move very quickly, in all conditions.
On top of that, all Red Foxes have long, pointed ears, that allow them to have an exceptional hearing ability. This hearing ability allows them to hear the movements of rodents and other prey from under the ground, giving them an advantage while hunting, sneaking around, and hiding from potential harm.
Just when you think the Red Fox can’t possibly have more to their advantage they are topped off with some amazing vision. Red Foxes have to some degree, a capacity for color vision as well as the ability to see in just about all light conditions, this gives them an advantage to hunt and scavenge the night. Their field of view is relatively wide but do have a limited binocular vision and focussing power. They are powerful animals that also have an elegant view to them.
For the most part the Red Fox lives a life that really isn’t that exciting. During the day they go to a den where they can rest and be protected from both predators and natural elements. At night the Red Fox goes to work, scavenging and hunting for prey. Rest during the day is essential as their nightly adventures last for hours. During this period they walk a long way each night looking for food sources to replenish their bodies with.
Red Foxes do enjoy being alone and in the comfort of their own solitude, but it is common for territories to overlap, and fox families to wind up together in the same general area. Generally they will simply go about their own businesses and not bother each other.
This as you might guess, will change with food supply. When food is hard to come by the level of aggression rises. When food is more abundant, the level of aggression shrinks. This is common with foxes, but very much so with all other types of mammals, it all boils down to one thing. Survival of the fittest. A Red Fox will do anything in its power to survive, so if you end up taking its food, let’s just say you might regret it.
Another notable factor is that during mating season the males are also more protective of their territory. This represents dominance as well as assurance to find the right mate. Continue reading to find out more about Red Fox Reproduction below.
Diet / Feeding
When it comes to what the Red Fox will or will not consume the answer is pretty simple. The Red Fox will consume just about any source of food that it can find! This is one of the main reasons that this species of fox has been so successful with all the diverse habitats it belongs to. You can find these guys in hot climates, cold climates, urban cities, brushy forests, and more. Why? Well simply due to the fact that they will eat whatever they find! If in a forest, they find small animals such as squirrels, rabbits, and rodents. If in urban cities, well that’s where your garbage comes in.
The Red Fox is also known to consume worms, bugs, and spiders, using their paws to dig for food sources that are covered underground. They can also move rocks, branches, and other natural elements to get to them if need be. During specific times of the year there can be fruits or berries growing where they live, in those cases our furry little friends turn to those sources of food to survive. If humans live in a close proximity they will also consume chickens or cattle without a second thought. Red Foxes spend upward of 5 hours per night finding and fighting for their food.
Reproduction for the Red Fox starts in December, from December until February the Red Fox is in mating mode. While the male Red Fox can attempt reproduction during other periods of time, this is the prime session and the only time females will physically be able to reproduce. This process begins with the females. The female Red Fox attracts the male using its body’s very strong scent. Once again this scent is more pronounced during the period of these few months. Accruing due to the extra hormones being produced in the body. This process is called “estrus” and the females will have about a three day window for mating to occur.
After mating, the young will be born about 60 days later. As all mothers do, the female will prepare for the birth by getting a home, or in this case a den ready. Female Red Foxes will expect at least four pups but they can often receive as many as six. Thus needing to prepare enough room for them to all stay. A young Red Fox pup is expected to stay inside of the den for at least a month after its birth, that is the length of time a mother will nurture and care for them.
Now where is the male in all of this? Great question: It is the responsibility of the male to bring her back food, and protect his mate and the cubs. The male Red Fox will continue to scavenge and hunt throughout the night, bringing his kills home. Eventually, after a while of this routine the female Red Fox will have to leave her young to go get her own food due to the lack of nutrients, otherwise her body won’t be able to produce milk for the pups to drink. While it is essential the reality is that leaving her pups unattended is quite dangerous. Leaving them alone for even short periods of time can result in predators discovering the dens location and killing the young pups before she can return.
Habitat / Distribution
One of the reasons why many people are more familiar with the Red Fox than any other fox species is due to the fact that they have an amazing distribution throughout the world. In fact, the Red Fox can survive in just about any type of environment. Finding them in colder areas as well as the desert is not as uncommon as you might think!
Some will live in the mountains while others settle in the plains. Just about anywhere you think of in the Northern Hemisphere there is a high chance the Red Fox lives there. That in itself is just the fact of nature and how this species works.
While they are definitely also found in the Southern Hemisphere it isn’t to the same degree. It wasn’t until the later part of the 1800’s when they were also introduced to areas of Australia and other continents of similar climates. They continue to be a thriving species there today.
When it comes to predators of the Red Fox, that will greatly vary on where they are located. Big cats are number one on our list and the main natural predators of this type of fox. This includes but is not limited to the lynx, panther, bobcat, and wolf. However luckily enough, while the wolf is another predator that brings potential problems, their populations are small in circle and not a huge problem anymore.
In all reality humans are the biggest predator that the Red Fox has to contend with. They used to be widely hunted for their fur coats, and beautiful colors and sadly so even are today. While in this day and age there isn’t very much money in that business, the hunt for them continues for bragging rights and how great they look after the taxidermy process.
Ever-so, In many areas of the world the Red Fox is hunted not just for game but also for protection of property and livestock. As mentioned before, the Red Fox will eat a farmers chicken in a blink of an eye and these farmers do not take that lightly. Not only are owners of these animals tired of losing their livestock but also tired of losing their money, resulting, as you might expect, in the Red Fox being hunted and killed. However, as time has proven over and over it can be an endless battle as with one fox gone, another one comes to move in its territory.
The most human interaction the Red Fox will receive, boils down to two categories, interaction in captivity, and interaction in conflict. If a Red Fox decides to eat a farmers chicken that will resolve in conflict and well, the interaction will in no way be pleasant.
Likewise, if the fox is put into captivity and kept in a zoo human interaction can be expected on a day to day basis. Unlike some other animals the Red Fox does very well in captivity and can live up to 15 years. In the wild some have been able to live for over a decade. However, on average, the lifespan of a Red Fox is very short – from 2 until 5 years old. This being mainly due to young pups leaving the security and protection of their parents to find their own locations in nature. The smaller the pup, the higher the mortality rate sadly is. Once a Red Fox grows into an adult it is less likely to become a victim of a natural predator due to the nature of the species.
History of the Red Fox
Looking at the history of the Red Fox we can very quickly see that these guys have been around for quite some time. Clear findings of early canine remains indicate that the Red Fox has been around for a minimum of millions upon millions of years. This isn’t surprising to experts that study them today and claim that it is mainly due to the adaptations this animal has gone through the years. While we are certain the Red Fox has been with us for a very long time, what is still unknown, is how this creature managed to spread and settle in so many places around the world!
Perhaps they were thriving with such abundance that they had to spread out for survival? With population increases comes the demand for food, and with a shortage of food comes the growth in expansion. This is the number one reason scientists believe that this phenomenon occurred and still to this day is occurring with our beloved Red Fox.