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Red Fox

Vulpes vulpes

Red foxes look like small dogs with a mostly reddish body, black legs and white underparts. (Jane Hawkey/IAN Image Library)
Red foxes look like small dogs with a mostly reddish body, black legs and white underparts. (Jane Hawkey/IAN Image Library)

The red fox is a small, reddish, dog-like mammal that lives in swamps, forests and farms throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Varies in color from bright red to rusty or reddish-brown
  • White underparts
  • Black fur on the lower legs and feet
  • Large ears that are black on the backs
  • Slim, sharply pointed muzzle
  • Bushy red and black tail that is usually tipped in white
  • Grows to about 25 inches long and weighs 6-15 pounds

Habitat:

  • Found in many areas, including swamps, forests and farms
  • Mostly nocturnal but also active during dusk and dawn

Range:

  • Found throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed
  • Stays within a home range of 3-30 miles, depending on the amount of food available

Feeding:

  • Hunts and forages for a variety of foods, including fruits, seeds, worms, insects, small mammals (such as voles, mice, rabbits and muskrats), and small marsh birds and their eggs
  • Able to hear small mammals digging, chewing and rustling underground
  • Once a fox detects its prey, it rapidly digs into the soil to capture it
  • Will also stalk small mammals by standing very still, them leaping high and bring their forepaws down hard to pin the animal to the ground

Predators:

  • Young foxes are preyed upon by eagles, coyotes and other animals
  • Humans are the biggest predator of adult foxes, who are hunted for fur or killed because they are considered pests

Voice:

  • Communicates with other foxes using many different types of vocalizations

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Breeds between January-March
  • Most males have just one female partner, but some males breed with multiple females
  • After mating, the female makes a den. The male does not enter the den, but brings food for the female and their pups.
  • Gestationperiod lasts 51-53 days, after which the female gives birth to a litter of about 5 pups
  • Pups are born blind but open their eyes within two weeks
  • Young remain in the den for 4-5 weeks
  • The female nurses her pups for about two months. Young then get solid food from their parents and other members of their group. Sometimes the female will bring her pups live food to “play” with and eat so they can learn hunting skills.
  • Young remain with their parents until autumn of the year they were born. Sometimes females stay longer.
  • Usually only lives 3 years old in the wild

Other Facts:

  • Related to wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs. While their cousins tend to be social animals, red foxes are solitary, cautious and tense.
  • A fast runner that can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. Red foxes can also leap more than 6 feet high.
  • Uses its bushy tail as a blanket to keep warm
  • Red foxes are not native to the United States. They were introduced here from England in the mid-1800s for hunting. Unregulated trapping and hunting greatly reduced their population at one time.

Sources and Additional Information:

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