The red fox (
Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes and one
of the most widely distributed members of the order Carnivora, being
present across the entire
Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle
to North Africa,
North America and Eurasia. It is listed as least
concern by the IUCN. Its range has increased alongside human
expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered
harmful to native mammals and bird populations. Due to its presence in
Australia, it is included among the list of the "world's 100 worst
The red fox originated from smaller-sized ancestors from Eurasia
during the Middle
Villafranchian period, and colonised North
America shortly after the Wisconsin glaciation. Among the true
foxes, the red fox represents a more progressive form in the direction
of carnivory. Apart from its large size, the red fox is
distinguished from other fox species by its ability to adapt quickly
to new environments. Despite its name, the species often produces
individuals with other colourings, including albinos and melanists.
Forty-five subspecies are currently recognised, which are divided
into two categories: the large northern foxes, and the small, basal
southern foxes of Asia and North Africa.
Red foxes are usually together in pairs or small groups consisting of
families, such as a mated pair and their young, or a male with several
females having kinship ties. The young of the mated pair remain with
their parents to assist in caring for new kits. The species
primarily feeds on small rodents, though it may also target rabbits,
game birds, reptiles, invertebrates and young ungulates. Fruit
and vegetable matter is also eaten sometimes. Although the red fox
tends to kill smaller predators, including other fox species, it is
vulnerable to attack from larger predators, such as wolves, coyotes,
golden jackals and medium- and large-sized felines.
The species has a long history of association with humans, having been
extensively hunted as a pest and furbearer for many centuries, as well
as being represented in human folklore and mythology. Because of its
widespread distribution and large population, the red fox is one of
the most important furbearing animals harvested for the fur
trade.:229–230 Too small to pose a threat to humans, it has
extensively benefited from the presence of human habitation, and has
successfully colonised many suburban and urban areas. Domestication of
Red fox is also underway in Russia, and has resulted in the
Domesticated red fox.
2.2 Colonisation of North America
3.5 Scent glands
4.1 Social and territorial behaviour
4.2 Reproduction and development
4.3 Denning behaviour
5.1 Body language
6.1 Diet, hunting and feeding behaviour
6.2 Enemies and competitors
8 Diseases and parasites
9 Relationships with humans
9.1 In folklore and mythology
9.3 Fur use
9.4 Livestock and pet predation
9.5 Taming and domestication
9.6 Urban foxes
9.6.3 Urban fox control
9.6.4 Relationship between urban and rural foxes
11 Further reading
12 External links
Females are called vixens, and young cubs are known as kits.
Arctic fox has a small native population in northern
Scandinavia, while the corsac fox's range extends into European
Russia, the red fox is the only fox native to Western Europe, and so
is simply called "the fox" in colloquial British English.
The word "fox" comes from Old English, which derived from
Proto-Germanic *fuhsaz. Compare with West Frisian foks, Dutch vos, and
German Fuchs. This, in turn, derives from Proto-Indo-European *puḱ-
'thick-haired; tail'. Compare to the
Hindi pū̃ch 'tail', Tocharian B
päkā 'tail; chowrie', and Lithuanian paustìs 'fur'. The bushy tail
also forms the basis for the fox's Welsh name, llwynog, literally
'bushy', from llwyn 'bush'. Likewise, Portuguese: raposa from rabo
'tail', Lithuanian uodẽgis from uodegà 'tail', and Ojibwa waagosh
from waa, which refers to the up and down "bounce" or flickering of an
animal or its tail.
The scientific term vulpes derives from the Latin word for fox, and
gives the adjectives vulpine and vulpecular.
Comparative illustration of skulls of red fox (left) and Rüppell's
fox (right): Note the more developed facial area of the former.
The red fox is considered a more specialised form of
Vulpes than the
Afghan, corsac and Bengal foxes in the direction of size and
adaptation to carnivory; the skull displays much fewer neotenous
traits than in other species, and its facial area is more
developed. It is, however, not as adapted for a purely carnivorous
diet as the Tibetan fox.
Red fox(Fig. 10)
The species is Eurasian in origin, and may have evolved from either
Vulpes alopecoides or the related Chinese V. chikushanensis, both
of which lived during the Middle Villafranchian. The earliest
fossil specimens of V. vulpes were uncovered in Baranya, Hungary
dating from 3.4-1.8 million years ago. The ancestral species
was likely smaller than the current one, as the earliest red fox
fossils are smaller than modern populations.:115–116 The earliest
fossil remains of the modern species date back to the mid-Pleistocene
in association with the refuse of early human settlements. This has
led to the theory that the red fox was hunted by primitive humans as
both a source of food and pelts.
Colonisation of North America
Red foxes colonised the North American continent in two waves: during
or before the Illinoian glaciation, and during the Wisconsinan
Gene mapping demonstrates that red foxes in North
America have been isolated from their Old World counterparts for over
400,000 years, thus raising the possibility that speciation has
occurred, and that the previous binomial name of
Vulpes fulva may be
valid. In the far north, red fox fossils have been found in
Sangamonian deposits in the Fairbanks District and Medicine Hat.
Fossils dating from the Wisconsian are present in 25 sites in
Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico,
Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. Although they ranged far
south during the Wisconsinan, the onset of warm conditions shrank
their range toward the north, and have only recently reclaimed their
former American ranges because of human-induced environmental
Genetic testing indicates two distinct red fox refugia
exist in North America, which have been separated since the
Wisconsinan. The northern (or boreal) refugium occurs in
western Canada, and consists of the large subspecies
V. v. alascensis, V. v. abietorum,
V. v. regalis, and V. v. rubricosa. The southern
(or montane) refugium occurs in the subalpine parklands and alpine
meadows of the Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Range, and Sierra Nevada.
It encompasses the subspecies V. v. macroura,
V. v. cascadensis, and V. v. necator. The latter
clade has been separated from all other red fox populations since the
last glacial maximum, and may possess unique ecological or
Although European foxes were introduced to portions of the United
States in the 1900s recent genetic investigation indicates an absence
of European fox haplotypes in any North American populations.
Also, introduced eastern red foxes have colonized southern California,
the San Joaquin Valley, and San Francisco Bay Area, but appear to have
mixed with the
Sacramento Valley red fox V. v. patwin only
in a narrow hybrid zone. In addition, no evidence is seen of
interbreeding of eastern red foxes in
California with the montane
Sierra Nevada red fox
Sierra Nevada red fox V. v. necator or other populations in
the Intermountain West (between the
Rocky Mountains to the east and
the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges to the west.
As of 2005[update], 45 subspecies are recognised. In 2010, another
distinct subspecies, which inhabits the grasslands of the Sacramento
Valley, V. v. patwin, was identified through mitochondrial
Substantial gene pool mixing between different subspecies is known;
British red foxes have crossbred extensively with foxes imported from
Germany, France, Belgium, Sardinia, and possibly
Scandinavia.:140 However, genetic studies suggest very little
differences between red foxes sampled across Europe. Lack of
genetic diversity is consistent with the red fox being a highly vagile
species, with one red fox covering 320 km (200 mi) in under
a year's time.
Skull of a northern fox
Skull of a southern grey desert fox
Red fox subspecies in
North Africa are divided into two
Northern foxes are large and brightly coloured.
Southern grey desert foxes include the Asian subspecies
V. v. griffithi, V. v. pusilla, and
V. v. flavescens. These foxes display transitional features
between northern red foxes and smaller fox species; their skulls
possess more primitive, neotenous traits than the northern forms,
and they are much smaller; the maximum sizes attained by southern
foxes are invariably less than the average sizes of northern foxes.
Their limbs are also longer, and their ears larger.
Red foxes living in Middle Asia show physical traits intermediate to
the northern and southern forms.
Scandinavian red fox
V. v. vulpes
A large subspecies measuring 70–90 cm in length and weighing
5–10 kg, the maximum length of the skull for males is
163.2 mm. The fur is bright red with a strongly developed whitish
and yellow ripple on the lower back.
Scandinavia and the northern and middle (forest) districts of the
European part of the former Soviet Union, southwards to forest-steppe
and eastwards approximately to the Urals, and probably Central and
alopex (Linnaeus, 1758)
communis (Burnett, 1829)
lineatus (Billberg, 1827)
nigro-argenteus (Nilsson, 1820)
nigrocaudatus (Billberg, 1827)
septentrionalis (Brass, 1911)
variegates (Billberg, 1827)
vulgaris (Oken, 1816)
British Columbian fox
V. v. abietorum
Generally similar to V. v. alascensis, but with a lighter, longer and
more slender skull
British Columbia and probably southeastern Alaska, US
sitkaensis (Brass, 1911)
Northern Alaskan fox
V. v. alascensis
A large, long tailed, small eared form with golden-fulvous fur
Andreafsky Wilderness, Alaska, US
Eastern trans-Caucasian fox
V. v. alpherakyi
A small subspecies weighing 4 kg, its maximum skull length is
132–39 mm in males and 121–26 mm in females. The fur is
rusty grey or rusty brown, with a brighter rusty stripe along the
spine. The coat is short, coarse and sparse.
Geok Tepe, Aralsk, Kazakhstan
V. v. anatolica
Izmir, Aegean Region, Turkey
V. v. arabica
Dhofar and the Hajar Mountains, Oman
V. v. atlantica
Atlas Mountains, Mila Province, Algeria
algeriensis (Loche, 1858)
V. v. bangsi
Similar to V. v. fulva, but with smaller ears and less pronounced
black markings on the ears and legs
L'Anse au Loup, Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador, Canada
V. v. barbara
Barbary Coast, northwestern Africa
acaab (Cabrera, 1916)
V. v. beringiana
A large subspecies, it is the most brightly coloured of Old World red
foxes, the fur being saturated bright-reddish and almost lacking the
bright ripple along the back and flanks. The coat is fluffy and
Shore of the Bering Strait, north-eastern Siberia
anadyrensis (J. A. Allen, 1903)
beringensis (Merriam, 1902)
kamtschadensis (Brass, 1911)
kamtschatica (Dybowski, 1922)
schantaricus (Yudin, 1986)
Cascade red fox
V. v. cascadensis
A short tailed, small toothed fox with yellow rather than fulvous fur,
it is the most common form producing "cross" varieties.
Cascade Mountains, Skamania County, Washington, US
North Caucasian fox
V. v. caucasica
A large subspecies, its coat is variable in colour, ranging from
reddish to red-grey and nearly grey. The fur is short and coarse. This
form could be a hybrid of mixing V. v. stepensis and
V. v. karagan populations.
Near Vladikavkaz, Caucasus, Russia
V. v. crucigera
A medium-sized subspecies, its yellowish-fulvous or reddish-brown pelt
lacks the whitish shading on the upper back. The tail is not grey, as
in most other subspecies. It is primarily distinguished from
V. v. vulpes by its slightly smaller size, distinctly
smaller teeth, and widely spaced premolars. Red foxes present in
Britain (and therefore Australia) are usually ascribed to this
subspecies, though many populations there display a great degree of
tooth compaction not present in continental European populations.
All Europe, except Scandinavia,
Iberian Peninsula and some islands of
the Mediterranean Sea, introduced to Australia and Virginia
alba (Borkhausen, 1797)
cinera (Bechstein, 1801)
diluta (Ognev, 1924)
europaeus (Kerr, 1792)
hellenica (Douma-Petridou and Ondrias, 1980)
hypomelas (Wagner, 1841)
lutea (Bechstein, 1801)
melanogaster (Bonaparte, 1832)
meridionalis (Fitzinger, 1855)
nigra (Borkhausen, 1797)
stepensis (Brauner, 1914)
V. v. daurica
A large subspecies, the colour along its spine is light, dull
yellowish-reddish with a strongly developed white ripple and greyish
longitudinal stripes on the anterior side of the limbs. The coat is
coarse but fluffy.
Kharangoi, 45 km west of Troizkosavsk, Siberia
ussuriensis (Dybowski, 1922)
V. v. deletrix
A very pale-coloured form, its light, straw-yellow fur deepens to
golden yellow or buff-fulvous in some places. The tail lacks the usual
black basal spot. The hind feet and claws are very large.
St. George's Bay, Newfoundland, Canada
V. v. dolichocrania
Sidemi, southern Ussuri, southeastern Siberia
ognevi (Yudin, 1986)
V. v. dorsalis
J. E. Gray, 1838
V. v. flavescens
J. E. Gray, 1838
A small subspecies, with an infantile skull and an overall grey
coloured coat, its body length is 49–57.5 cm, and it weighs
cinerascens (Birula, 1913)
splendens (Thomas, 1902)
American red fox
V. v. fulvus
This is a smaller subspecies than V. v. vulpes, with a
smaller, sharper face, a shorter tail and a lighter pelt more
profusely mixed with whitish, and darker limbs.
Canada and eastern US
pennsylvanicus (Rhoads, 1894)
Afghan red fox
V. v. griffithi
Slightly smaller than V. vulpes montana, it has a more extensively
hoary and silvered pelt.:121
flavescens (Hutton, 1845)
V. v. harrimani
This large subspecies has an enormous tail and coarse, wolf-like fur
on the tail and lower back. The hairs on the neck and shoulders are
greatly elongated and form a ruff.
Kodiak Island, Alaska, US
Southern Chinese fox
V. v. hoole
Near Amoy, Fukien, southern China
aurantioluteus (Matschie, 1907)
lineiventer (Swinhoe, 1871)
V. v. ichnusae
A small subspecies with proportionately small ears
Sarrabus, Sardinia, Italy, may have been introduced to the English
V. v. indutus
Cape Pyla, Cyprus
V. v. jakutensis
This subspecies is large, but smaller than V. v. beringiana. The back,
neck, and shoulders are brownish rusty, while the flanks are bright
Taiga, south of Yakutsk, eastern Siberia
sibiricus (Dybowski, 1922)
V. v. japonica
V. v. karagan
A smaller subspecies than V. v. vulpes, its fur is short, coarse and
is of a light sandy-yellow or yellowish grey colour.
Kirghiz Steppes, Khirgizia, Russia
ferganensis (Ognev, 1926)
melanotus (Pallas, 1811)
pamirensis (Ognev, 1926)
tarimensis (Matschie, 1907)
Kenai Peninsula fox
V. v. kenaiensis
One of the largest North American subspecies, it has softer fur than
V. v. harrimani.
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, US
Trans-Caucasian montane fox
V. v. kurdistanica
A form intermediate in size between V. v. alpheryaki and
V. v. caucasica, its fur is pale yellow or light grey,
sometimes brownish-reddish and is fluffier and denser than that of
other Caucasian subspecies.
alticola (Ognev, 1926)
Wasatch Mountain fox
V. v. macroura
This fox is similar to V. v. fulva, but with a much longer tail,
larger hind feet, and more extensive blackening of the limbs
Named for the Wasatch Mountains, near Great Salt Lake, Utah, found in
Rocky Mountains from
Colorado and Utah, western
Idaho north to southern Alberta
V. v. montana
This subspecies is distinguished from V. v. vulpes by its smaller
size, proportionately smaller skull and teeth, and coarser fur. The
hairs on the sole of the feet are copiously mixed with softer, woolly
alopex (Blanford, 1888)
himalaicus (Ogilby, 1837)
ladacensis (Matschie, 1907)
nepalensis (J. E. Gray, 1837)
waddelli (Bonhote, 1906)
Sierra Nevada red fox
Sierra Nevada red fox or High Sierra fox
V. v. necator
Externally similar to V. v. fulvus, it has a short tail, but cranially
more like V. v. macroura
High Sierra, California
V. v. niloticus
E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803
A small subspecies, it measures 76.7–105.3 cm in body length,
30.2–40.1 cm in tail length, and weighs 1.8–3.8 kg. It
is ruddy to grey-brown above and darker on the back of the neck. The
flanks are greyer and tinged with buff. It is larger than
V. v. arabica and V. v. palaestina.
aegyptiacus (Sonnini, 1816)
anubis (Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833)
vulpecula (Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833)
V. v. ochroxantha
Aksai, Semirechye, eastern Russian Turkestan, Kirgizia
V. v. palaestina
Ramleh, near Jaffa, Israel
V. v. peculiosa
Northeast China, Korea
kiyomassai (Kishida and Mori, 1929)
V. v. pusilla
Slightly smaller than V. v. griffithii,:123> it closely
resembles V. bengalensis in size, but is distinguished by its longer
tail and hind feet.:129
Salt Range, Punjab, Pakistan
leucopus (Blyth, 1854)
persicus (Blanford, 1875)
Northern plains fox
V. v. regalis
The largest North
American red fox
American red fox subspecies, it has very large and
broad ears and a very long tail. It is of a golden yellow colour with
pure black feet.
Elk River, Sherburne County, Minnesota, US
Nova Scotia fox
V. v. rubricosa
A large-sized subspecies with a large, broad tail and larger teeth and
rostrum than V. v. fulva, it is the deepest-coloured form.
Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada
bangsi (Merriam, 1900)
deletrix (Bangs, 1898)
rubricos (Churcher, 1960)
vafra (Bangs, 1897)
V. v. schrencki
V. v. silacea
Though equal in size to V. v. vulpes, it has smaller teeth and more
widely spaced premolars. The fur is dull buff, without any yellowish
or reddish tints. The hindquarters are frosted with white and the tail
is clear grey in colour.
Kurile Island fox
V. v. splendidissima
North and central Kurile Islands, Russia
V. v. stepensis
This subspecies is slightly smaller and more lightly coloured than
V. v. crucigera, with shorter, coarser fur. Specimens from
the Crimean Mountains have brighter, fluffier, and denser fur.
Steppes near Kherson, Ukraine
krymeamontana (Brauner, 1914)
crymensis (Brauner, 1914)
V. v. tobolica
This large subspecies has yellowish-rusty or dirty-reddish fur with a
well-developed cross, and often a black area on the belly. The coat is
long and fluffy.
Obdorsk, Tobolsk, Russia
Northern Chinese fox
V. v. tschiliensis
Slightly larger than V. v. hoole, but unlike other Chinese red foxes,
it closely approaches V. v. vulpes in size.
Peiping, Chihli, northeastern China
huli (Sowerby, 1923)
Red fox (left) and corsac fox (right) yawning
The red fox has an elongated body and relatively short limbs. The
tail, which is longer than half the body length (70 per cent of
head and body length), is fluffy and reaches the ground when in a
standing position. Their pupils are oval and vertically oriented.
Nictitating membranes are present, but move only when the eyes are
closed. The forepaws have five digits, while the hind feet have only
four and lack dewclaws. They are very agile, being capable of
jumping over 2-metre-high (6 ft 7 in) fences, and swim
well. Vixens normally have four pairs of teats, though vixens
with seven, nine, or ten teats are not uncommon. The testes of
males are smaller than those of Arctic foxes.
Their skulls are fairly narrow and elongated, with small braincases.
Their canine teeth are relatively long.
Sexual dimorphism of the skull
is more pronounced than in corsac foxes, with female red foxes tending
to have smaller skulls than males, with wider nasal regions and hard
palates, as well as having larger canines. Their skulls are
distinguished from those of dogs by their narrower muzzles, less
crowded premolars, more slender canine teeth, and concave rather than
Red foxes are the largest species of the genus Vulpes. However,
relative to dimensions, red foxes are much lighter than similarly
sized dogs of the genus Canis. Their limb bones, for example, weigh 30
percent less per unit area of bone than expected for similarly sized
dogs. They display significant individual, sexual, age and
geographical variation in size. On average, adults measure
35–50 cm (14–20 in) high at the shoulder and
45–90 cm (18–35 in) in body length with tails measuring
30–55.5 cm (11.8–21.9 in). The ears measure
7.7–12.5 cm (3–5 in) and the hind feet 12–18.5 cm
(5–7 in). Weights range from 2.2–14 kg (5–31 lb),
with vixens typically weighing 15–20% less than males. Adult
red foxes have skulls measuring 129–167 mm (5.1–6.6 in),
while those of vixens measure 128–159 mm
(5.0–6.3 in). The forefoot print measures 60 mm
(2.4 in) in length and 45 mm (1.8 in) in width, while
the hind foot print measures 55 mm (2.2 in) long and
38 mm (1.5 in) wide. They trot at a speed of
6–13 km/h (4–8 mph), and have a maximum running speed of
50 km/h (30 mph). They have a stride of 25–35 cm
(9.8–13.8 in) when walking at a normal pace.:36 North
American red foxes are generally lightly built, with comparatively
long bodies for their mass and have a high degree of sexual
dimorphism. British red foxes are heavily built, but short, while
continental European red foxes are closer to the general average among
red fox populations. The largest red fox on record in Great
Britain was a 17.2 kg (38 lb), 1.4-metre (4 ft
7 in) long male, killed in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in early
The winter fur is dense, soft, silky and relatively long. For the
northern foxes, the fur is very long, dense and fluffy, but is
shorter, sparser and coarser in southern forms. Among northern
foxes, the North American varieties generally have the silkiest guard
hairs,:231 while most Eurasian red foxes have coarser fur.:235
There are three main colour morphs; red, silver/black and cross (see
Mutations). In the typical red morph, their coats are generally
bright reddish-rusty with yellowish tints. A stripe of weak, diffuse
patterns of many brown-reddish-chestnut hairs occurs along the spine.
Two additional stripes pass down the shoulder blades, which, together
with the spinal stripe, form a cross. The lower back is often a
mottled silvery colour. The flanks are lighter coloured than the back,
while the chin, lower lips, throat and front of the chest are white.
The remaining lower surface of the body is dark, brown or reddish.
During lactation, the belly fur of vixens may turn brick red. The
upper parts of the limbs are rusty reddish, while the paws are black.
The frontal part of the face and upper neck is bright brownish-rusty
red, while the upper lips are white. The backs of the ears are black
or brownish-reddish, while the inner surface is whitish. The top of
the tail is brownish-reddish, but lighter in colour than the back and
flanks. The underside of the tail is pale grey with a straw-coloured
tint. A black spot, the location of the supracaudal gland, is usually
present at the base of the tail. The tip of the tail is white.
Various red fox colour mutations
White morph red foxes may be distinguished from Arctic foxes by their
25% greater size, longer muzzles, and longer, pointed ears. This
captive example shows the dark pigment of the eyes, nose, and lips
that would not occur in an albino. Complete albinism in red foxes is
rare and primarily occurs in southern forest zones. Typically,
albinism is accompanied by deformations and usually develops in years
of insufficient food.
Atypical colourations in red foxes usually represent stages toward
full melanism, and mostly occur in cold regions.
The typical colouration. See Fur
The rump and spine is brown or grey with light yellowish bands on the
guard hairs. The cross on the shoulders is brown, rusty brown or
brownish-reddish. The limbs are brown
The fur has a darker colouration to the former. The rump and lower
back are dark brown or dark grey, with varying degrees of silver on
the guard hairs. The cross on the shoulders is black or brown,
sometimes with light silvery fur. The feet and head are brown
The melanistic form of the Eurasian red fox. Has blackish-brown or
black skin with a light-brownish tint. The skin usually has an
admixture of various amounts of silver. Reddish hairs are either
completely absent or in small quantities
The melanistic form of the North American red fox, but introduced to
the Old World by the fur trade. Characterised by pure black colour
with a variable admixture of silver (covering 25–100% of the skin
Distinguished from the silver morph by its late pale, almost
silver-white fur with a bluish cast:251
Distinguished by its woolly pelt, which lacks guard hairs:230
Red foxes have binocular vision, but their sight reacts mainly to
movement. Their auditory perception is acute, being able to hear black
grouse changing roosts at 600 paces, the flight of crows at 0.25–0.5
kilometres (0.16–0.31 mi) and the squeaking of mice at about
100 metres (330 ft). They are capable of locating sounds to
within one degree at 700–3,000 Hz, though less accurately at
higher frequencies. Their sense of smell is good, but weaker than
that of specialised dogs.
Red foxes have a pair of anal sacs lined by sebaceous glands, both of
which open through a single duct. The anal sacs act as fermentation
chambers in which aerobic and anaerobic bacteria convert sebum into
odorous compounds, including aliphatic acids. The oval-shaped caudal
gland is 25 mm (1.0 in) long and 13 mm (0.51 in)
wide, and reportedly smells of violets. The presence of foot glands
is equivocal. The interdigital cavities are deep, with a reddish tinge
and smell strongly. Sebaceous glands are present on the angle of the
jaw and mandible.
A pair of European red foxes at the British Wildlife Centre, Surrey,
Social and territorial behaviour
Red foxes either establish stable home ranges within particular areas
or are itinerant with no fixed abode.:117 They use their urine to
mark their territories. A male fox raises one hind leg and his
urine is sprayed forward in front of him, whereas a female fox squats
down so that the urine is sprayed in the ground between the hind
legs. Urine is also used to mark empty cache sites, used to store
found food, as reminders not to waste time investigating them.:125
 The use of up to 12 different urination postures allows them
to precisely control the position of the scent mark. Red foxes
live in family groups sharing a joint territory. In favourable
habitats and/or areas with low hunting pressure, subordinate foxes may
be present in a range. Subordinate foxes may number one or two,
sometimes up to eight in one territory. These subordinates could be
formerly dominant animals, but are mostly young from the previous
year, who act as helpers in rearing the breeding vixen's kits.
Alternatively, their presence has been explained as being in response
to temporary surpluses of food unrelated to assisting reproductive
success. Non-breeding vixens will guard, play, groom, provision and
retrieve kits, an example of kin selection. Red foxes may leave
their families once they reach adulthood if the chances of winning a
territory of their own are high. If not, they will stay with their
parents, at the cost of postponing their own
Reproduction and development
Further information: Mating behavior of melanistic red foxes
A pair of Cascade red foxes (V. v. cascadensis) mating
European red fox kit in Oxfordshire
Kits coming out of their den
Red foxes reproduce once a year in spring. Two months prior to oestrus
(typically December), the reproductive organs of vixens change shape
and size. By the time they enter their oestrus period, their uterine
horns double in size, and their ovaries grow 1.5–2 times larger.
Sperm formation in males begins in August–September, with the
testicles attaining their greatest weight in December–February.
The vixen's oestrus period lasts three weeks, during which the
dog-foxes mate with the vixens for several days, often in burrows.
The male's bulbus glandis enlarges during copulation, forming a
copulatory tie which may last for more than an hour. The gestation
period lasts 49–58 days. Though foxes are largely monogamous,
DNA evidence from one population indicated large levels of polygyny,
incest and mixed paternity litters. Subordinate vixens may become
pregnant, but usually fail to whelp, or have their kits killed
postpartum by either the dominant female or other subordinates.
The average litter size consists of four to six kits, though litters
of up to 13 kits have occurred. Large litters are typical in areas
where fox mortality is high.:93 Kits are born blind, deaf and
toothless, with dark brown fluffy fur. At birth, they weigh
56–110 g (2.0–3.9 oz) and measure 14.5 cm
(5.7 in) in body length and 7.5 cm (3.0 in) in tail
length. At birth, they are short-legged, large-headed and have broad
chests. Mothers remain with the kits for 2–3 weeks, as they are
unable to thermoregulate. During this period, the fathers or barren
vixens feed the mothers. Vixens are very protective of their kits,
and have been known to even fight off terriers in their
defence.:21–22 If the mother dies before the kits are
independent, the father takes over as their provider.:13 The kits'
eyes open after 13–15 days, during which time their ear canals open
and their upper teeth erupt, with the lower teeth emerging 3–4 days
later. Their eyes are initially blue, but change to amber at 4–5
weeks. Coat colour begins to change at three weeks of age, when the
black eye streak appears. By one month, red and white patches are
apparent on their faces. During this time, their ears erect and their
muzzles elongate. Kits begin to leave their dens and experiment
with solid food brought by their parents at the age of 3–4 weeks.
The lactation period lasts 6–7 weeks. Their woolly coats begin to
be coated by shiny guard hairs after 8 weeks. By the age of 3–4
months, the kits are long-legged, narrow-chested and sinewy. They
reach adult proportions at the age of 6–7 months. Some vixens may
reach sexual maturity at the age of 9–10 months, thus bearing their
first litters at one year of age. In captivity, their longevity can
be as long as 15 years, though in the wild they typically do not
survive past 5 years of age.
Side and above view of a red fox den
Outside the breeding season, most red foxes favour living in the open,
in densely vegetated areas, though they may enter burrows to escape
bad weather. Their burrows are often dug on hill or mountain
slopes, ravines, bluffs, steep banks of water bodies, ditches,
depressions, gutters, in rock clefts and neglected human environments.
Red foxes prefer to dig their burrows on well drained soils. Dens
built among tree roots can last for decades, while those dug on the
steppes last only several years. They may permanently abandon their
dens during mange outbreaks, possibly as a defence mechanism against
the spread of disease. In the Eurasian desert regions, foxes may
use the burrows of wolves, porcupines and other large mammals, as well
as those dug by gerbil colonies. Compared to burrows constructed by
Arctic foxes, badgers, marmots and corsac foxes, red fox dens are not
Red fox burrows are divided into a den and temporary
burrows, which consist only of a small passage or cave for
concealment. The main entrance of the burrow leads downwards
(40–45°) and broadens into a den, from which numerous side tunnels
branch. Burrow depth ranges from 0.5–2.5 metres (1 ft
8 in–8 ft 2 in), rarely extending to ground water.
The main passage can reach 17 m (56 ft) in length, standing
an average of 5–7 m (16–23 ft). In spring, red foxes
clear their dens of excess soil through rapid movements, first with
the forepaws then with kicking motions with their hind legs, throwing
the discarded soil over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) from the
burrow. When kits are born, the discarded debris is trampled, thus
forming a spot where the kits can play and receive food. They may
share their dens with woodchucks or badgers. Unlike badgers,
which fastidiously clean their earths and defecate in latrines, red
foxes habitually leave pieces of prey around their
dens.:15–17> The average sleep time of a captive red fox is
9.8 hours per day.
A European red fox (V. vulpes crucigera) in an inquisitive posture
A European red fox (V. vulpes crucigera) in an alert posture
Red fox body language consists of movements of the ears, tail and
postures, with their body markings emphasising certain gestures.
Postures can be divided into aggressive/dominant and
fearful/submissive categories. Some postures may blend the two
A pair of Wasatch mountain foxes (V. v. macroura) squabbling
Inquisitive foxes will rotate and flick their ears whilst sniffing.
Playful individuals will perk their ears and rise on their hind legs.
Male foxes courting females, or after successfully evicting intruders,
will turn their ears outwardly, and raise their tails in a horizontal
position, with the tips raised upward. When afraid, red foxes grin in
submission, arching their backs, curving their bodies, crouching their
legs and lashing their tails back and forth with their ears pointing
backwards and pressed against their skulls. When merely expressing
submission to a dominant animal, the posture is similar, but without
arching the back or curving the body. Submissive foxes will approach
dominant animals in a low posture, so that their muzzles reach up in
greeting. When two evenly matched foxes confront each other over food,
they approach each other sideways and push against each other's
flanks, betraying a mixture of fear and aggression through lashing
tails and arched backs without crouching and pulling their ears back
without flattening them against their skulls. When launching an
assertive attack, red foxes approach directly rather than sideways,
with their tails aloft and their ears rotated sideways. During
such fights, red foxes will stand on each other's upper bodies with
their forelegs, using open mouthed threats. Such fights typically only
occur among juveniles or adults of the same sex.
Red foxes have a wide vocal range, and produce different sounds
spanning five octaves, which grade into each other.:28 Recent
analyses identify 12 different sounds produced by adults and 8 by
kits. The majority of sounds can be divided into "contact" and
"interaction" calls. The former vary according to the distance between
individuals, while the latter vary according to the level of
Contact calls: The most commonly heard contact call is a three to five
syllable barking "wow wow wow" sound, which is often made by two foxes
approaching one another. This call is most frequently heard from
December to February (when they can be confused with the territorial
calls of tawny owls). The "wow wow wow" call varies according to
individual; captive foxes have been recorded to answer pre-recorded
calls of their pen-mates, but not those of strangers. Kits begin
emitting the "wow wow wow" call at the age of 19 days, when craving
attention. When red foxes draw close together, they emit trisyllabic
greeting warbles similar to the clucking of chickens. Adults greet
their kits with gruff huffing noises.:28
Interaction calls: When greeting one another, red foxes emit high
pitched whines, particularly submissive animals. A submissive fox
approached by a dominant animal will emit a ululating siren-like
shriek. During aggressive encounters with conspecifics, they emit a
throaty rattling sound, similar to a ratchet, called "gekkering".
Gekkering occurs mostly during the courting season from rival males or
vixens rejecting advances.:28
Fox barks, UK, January 1977
Another call that does not fit into the two categories is a long,
drawn out, monosyllabic "waaaaah" sound. As it is commonly heard
during the breeding season, it is thought to be emitted by vixens
summoning males. When danger is detected, foxes emit a monosyllabic
bark. At close quarters, it is a muffled cough, while at long
distances it is sharper. Kits make warbling whimpers when nursing,
these calls being especially loud when they are dissatisfied.:28
Diet, hunting and feeding behaviour
Red fox with coypu.
Red foxes are omnivores with a highly varied diet. Research conducted
in the former Soviet Union showed red foxes consuming over 300 animal
species and a few dozen species of plants. They primarily feed on
small rodents like voles, mice, ground squirrels, hamsters,
gerbils, woodchucks, pocket gophers and deer mice. Secondary
prey species include birds (with passeriformes, galliformes and
waterfowl predominating), leporids, porcupines, raccoons, opossums,
reptiles, insects, other invertebrates and flotsam (marine mammals,
fish and echinoderms). On very rare occasions, foxes may attack
young or small ungulates. They typically target mammals up to about
3.5 kg (7.7 lb) in weight, and they require 500 grams
(18 oz) of food daily. Red foxes readily eat plant material,
and in some areas fruit can amount to 100% of their diet in autumn.
Commonly consumed fruits include blueberries, blackberries,
raspberries, cherries, persimmons, mulberries, apples, plums, grapes,
and acorns. Other plant material includes grasses, sedges and
Red foxes are implicated in the predation of game and song birds,
hares, rabbits, muskrats, and young ungulates, particularly in
preserves, reserves, and hunting farms where ground nesting birds are
protected and raised, as well as in poultry farms.
While the popular consensus is that olfaction is very important for
hunting, two studies that experimentally investigated the role of
olfactory, auditory, and visual cues found that visual cues are the
most important ones for hunting in red foxes and coyotes.
Red foxes prefer to hunt in the early morning hours before sunrise and
late evening. Although they typically forage alone, they may
aggregate in resource-rich environments. When hunting mouse-like
prey, they first pinpoint their prey's location by sound, then leap,
sailing high above their quarry, steering in mid-air with their tails,
before landing on target up to 5 metres (16 ft) away. They
typically only feed on carrion in the late evening hours and at
night. They are extremely possessive of their food and will defend
their catches from even dominant animals.:58 Red foxes may
occasionally commit acts of surplus killing; during one breeding
season, four foxes were recorded to have killed around 200
black-headed gulls each, with peaks during dark, windy hours when
flying conditions were unfavorable. Losses to poultry and penned game
birds can be substantial because of this.:164 Red foxes seem to
dislike the taste of moles but will nonetheless catch them alive and
present them to their kits as playthings.:41
A 2008–2010 study of 84 red foxes in the
Czech Republic and Germany
found that successful hunting in long vegetation or under snow
appeared to involve an alignment of the fox with the Earth's magnetic
Enemies and competitors
Red fox confronting a grey fox
Golden eagle feeding on red fox
Fox challenging two badgers
Red foxes typically dominate other fox species. Arctic foxes generally
escape competition from red foxes by living farther north, where food
is too scarce to support the larger-bodied red species. Although the
red species' northern limit is linked to the availability of food, the
Arctic species' southern range is limited by the presence of the
former. Red and Arctic foxes were both introduced to almost every
island from the
Aleutian Islands to the
Alexander Archipelago during
the 1830s–1930s by fur companies. The red foxes invariably displaced
the Arctic foxes, with one male red fox having been reported to have
killed off all resident Arctic foxes on a small island in 1866.
Where they are sympatric, Arctic foxes may also escape competition by
feeding on lemmings and flotsam, rather than voles, as favoured by red
foxes. Both species will kill each other's kits, given the
opportunity. Red foxes are serious competitors of corsac foxes, as
they hunt the same prey all year. The red species is also stronger, is
better adapted to hunting in snow deeper than 10 cm (4 in)
and is more effective in hunting and catching medium to large-sized
rodents. Corsac foxes seem to only outcompete red foxes in semi-desert
and steppe areas. In Israel, Blanford's foxes escape
competition with red foxes by restricting themselves to rocky cliffs
and actively avoiding the open plains inhabited by red
foxes.:84–85 Red foxes dominate kit and swift foxes. Kit foxes
usually avoid competition with their larger cousins by living in more
arid environments, though red foxes have been increasing in ranges
formerly occupied by kit foxes due to human-induced environmental
changes. Red foxes will kill both species, and compete for food and
den sites. Grey foxes are exceptional, as they dominate red foxes
wherever their ranges meet. Historically, interactions between the two
species were rare, as grey foxes favoured heavily wooded or semiarid
habitats as opposed to the open and mesic ones preferred by red foxes.
However, interactions have become more frequent due to deforestation
allowing red foxes to colonise grey fox-inhabited areas.
Wolves may kill and eat red foxes in disputes over carcasses.
In areas in
North America where red fox and coyote populations are
sympatric, fox ranges tend to be located outside coyote territories.
The principal cause of this separation is believed to be active
avoidance of coyotes by the foxes. Interactions between the two
species vary in nature, ranging from active antagonism to
indifference. The majority of aggressive encounters are initiated by
coyotes, and there are few reports of red foxes acting aggressively
toward coyotes except when attacked or when their kits were
approached. Foxes and coyotes have sometimes been seen feeding
together. In Israel, red foxes share their habitat with golden
jackals. Where their ranges meet, the two canids compete due to near
identical diets. Foxes ignore jackal scents or tracks in their
territories, and avoid close physical proximity with jackals
themselves. In areas where jackals become very abundant, the
population of foxes decreases significantly, apparently because of
Red foxes dominate raccoon dogs, sometimes killing their kits or
biting adults to death. Cases are known of foxes killing raccoon dogs
entering their dens. Both species compete for mouse-like prey. This
competition reaches a peak during early spring, when food is scarce.
In Tartaria, red fox predation accounted for 11.1% of deaths among 54
raccoon dogs, and amounted to 14.3% of 186 raccoon dog deaths in
Red foxes may kill small mustelids like weasels, stone martens,
pine martens, stoats, kolonoks, polecats and young sables. Eurasian
badgers may live alongside red foxes in isolated sections of large
burrows. It is possible that the two species tolerate each other
out of mutualism; foxes provide badgers with food scraps, while
badgers maintain the shared burrow's cleanliness.:15 However,
cases are known of badgers driving vixens from their dens and
destroying their litters without eating them. Wolverines may kill red
foxes, often while the latter are sleeping or near carrion. Foxes in
turn may kill unattended young wolverines.
Red foxes may compete with striped hyenas on large carcasses. Red
foxes may give way to hyenas on unopened carcasses, as the latter's
stronger jaws can easily tear open flesh that is too tough for foxes.
Foxes may harass hyenas, using their smaller size and greater speed to
avoid the hyena's attacks. Sometimes, foxes seem to deliberately
torment hyenas even when there is no food at stake. Some foxes may
mistime their attacks, and are killed.:77–79
Fox remains are
often found in hyena dens, and hyenas may steal foxes from traps.
In Eurasia, red foxes may be preyed upon by leopards, caracals and
Eurasian lynxes. The lynxes chase red foxes into deep snow, where
their longer legs and larger paws give them an advantage over foxes,
especially when the depth of the snow exceeds one metre. In the
Velikoluki district in Russia, red foxes are absent or are seen only
occasionally where lynxes establish permanent territories.
Researchers consider lynxes to represent considerably less danger to
red foxes than wolves do. North American felid predators of red
foxes include cougars, Canadian lynxes and bobcats. Occasionally,
large raptors such as Eurasian eagle owls will prey on young
foxes, while golden eagles have been known to kill adults.
A North American red fox
Red foxes are wide-ranging animals, whose range covers nearly
70 million km2 (27 million sq mi). They are
distributed across the entire
Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic
Circle to North Africa, Central America, and Asia. They are absent in
Iceland, the Arctic islands, some parts of Siberia, and in extreme
Red foxes are not present in
New Zealand and are classed as a
"prohibited new organism" under the Hazardous Substances and New
Organisms Act 1996, preventing them from being imported.
Main article: Feral foxes in Australia
In Australia, 2012 estimates indicate that there are more than
7.2 million red foxes with a range extending throughout most
of the continental mainland.:14 The species became established in
Australia through successive introductions by settlers in 1830s in the
British colonies of
Van Diemen's Land
Van Diemen's Land (as early as 1833) and the Port
Phillip District of New South Wales (as early as 1845) for the purpose
of the traditional English sport of fox hunting. A permanent fox
population was not established on the island of
Tasmania and it is
widely held that they were outcompeted by the Tasmanian devil. On
the mainland, however, the species was successful as an apex predator.
It is generally less common in areas where the dingo is more
prevalent, however it has, primarily through its burrowing behaviour,
achieved niche differentiation with both the feral dog and the feral
cat. As such it has become one of the continent's most invasive
species. The red fox has been implicated in the extinction and decline
of several native Australian species, particularly those of the family
Potoroidae including the desert rat-kangaroo. The spread of red
foxes across the southern part of the continent has coincided with the
spread of rabbits in Australia and corresponds with declines in the
distribution of several medium-sized ground-dwelling mammals,
including brush-tailed bettongs, burrowing bettongs, rufous bettongs,
bilbys, numbats, bridled nailtail wallabys and quokkas. Most of
these species are now limited to areas (such as islands) where red
foxes are absent or rare. Local eradication programs exist, although
eradication has proven difficult due to the denning behaviour and
nocturnal hunting, so the focus is on management with the introduction
of state bounties. According to the Tasmanian government, red
foxes were introduced to the previously fox-free island of
1999 or 2000, posing a significant threat to native wildlife including
the eastern bettong, and an eradication program conducted by the
Department of Primary Industries and Water
Department of Primary Industries and Water has been
The origin of the Sardinian ichnusae subspecies is uncertain, as it is
Pleistocene deposits in their current homeland. It is
possible it originated during the
Neolithic following its introduction
to the island by humans. It is likely then that Sardinian fox
populations stem from repeated introductions of animals from different
localities in the Mediterranean. This latter theory may explain the
subspecies' phenotypic diversity.
Diseases and parasites
European red fox with mange
Red foxes are the most important rabies vector in Europe. In London,
arthritis is not uncommon in foxes, being particularly frequent in the
spine. Foxes may be infected with leptospirosis and tularemia,
though they are not overly susceptible to the latter. They may also
fall ill from listeriosis and spirochetosis, as well as acting as
vectors in spreading erysipelas, brucellosis and tick-born
encephalitis. A mysterious fatal disease near Lake Sartlan in the
Novosibirsk Oblast was noted among local red foxes, but the cause was
undetermined. The possibility was considered that it was caused by an
acute form of encephalomyelitis, which was first observed in captive
bred silver foxes. Individual cases of foxes infected with Yersinia
pestis are known.
Red foxes are not readily prone to infestation with fleas. Species
Spilopsyllus cuniculi are probably only caught from the fox's
prey species, while others like
Archaeopsylla erinacei are caught
whilst travelling. Fleas that feed on red foxes include Pulex
Ctenocephalides canis and Paraceras melis. Ticks such as
Ixodes ricinus and I. hexagonus are not uncommon in foxes, and
are typically found on nursing vixens and kits still in their earths.
The louse Trichodectes vulpis specifically targets foxes, but is found
infrequently. The mite
Sarcoptes scabiei is the most important cause
of mange in red foxes. It causes extensive hair loss, starting from
the base of the tail and hindfeet, then the rump before moving on to
the rest of the body. In the final stages of the condition, foxes can
lose most of their fur, 50% of their body weight and may gnaw at
infected extremities. In the epizootic phase of the disease, it
usually takes foxes four months to die after infection. Other
endoparasites include Demodex folliculorum, Notoderes, Otodectes
cynotis (which is frequently found in the ear canal), Linguatula
serrata (which infects the nasal passages) and ringworms.
Up to 60 helminth species are known to infect foxes in fur farms,
while 20 are known in the wild. Several coccidian species of the
Eimeria are also known to infect them. The most
common nematode species found in fox guts are
Toxocara canis and
Uncinaria stenocephala, Capillaria aerophila and Crenosoma vulpis,
the latter two infect their lungs.
Capillaria plica infect the fox's
Trichinella spiralis rarely affects them. The most common
tapeworm species in foxes are Taenia spiralis and T. pisiformis.
Echinococcus granulosus and E. multilocularis.
Eleven trematode species infect red foxes, including Metorchis
Relationships with humans
In folklore and mythology
Further information: Foxes in culture
Reynard the Fox
Reynard the Fox in an 1869 children's book
Nine-tailed fox, from the
Qing edition of the Shan Hai Jing
Red foxes feature prominently in the folklore and mythology of human
cultures with which they are sympatric. In Greek mythology, the
Teumessian fox or Cadmean vixen, was a gigantic fox that was
destined never to be caught. The fox was one of the children of
In Celtic mythology, the red fox is a symbolic animal. In the
Cotswolds, witches were thought to take the shape of foxes to steal
butter from their neighbours. In later European folklore, the
Reynard the Fox
Reynard the Fox symbolises trickery and deceit. He
originally appeared (then under the name of "Reinardus") as a
secondary character in the 1150 poem "Ysengrimus". He reappeared in
1175 in Pierre Saint Cloud's Le Roman de Renart, and made his debut in
England in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Nun's Priest's Tale. Many of
Reynard's adventures may stem from actual observations on fox
behaviour; he is an enemy of the wolf and has a fondness for
blackberries and grapes.:32–33
Chinese folk tales tell of fox-spirits called huli jing that may have
up to nine tails, or kumiho as they are known in Korea. In
Japanese mythology, the kitsune are fox-like spirits possessing
magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost
among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales
speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others, other stories
portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives. In
Arab folklore, the fox is considered a cowardly, weak, deceitful, and
cunning animal, said to feign death by filling its abdomen with air to
appear bloated, then lies on its side, awaiting the approach of
unwitting prey. The animal's cunning was noted by the authors of
the Bible, and applied the word "fox" to false prophets (Ezekiel 13:4)
and the hypocrisy of
Herod Antipas (Luke 13:32).
Fox is commonly found in Native American mythology, where
it is portrayed as an almost constant companion to Coyote. Fox,
however, is a deceitful companion that often steals Coyote's food. In
Achomawi creation myth,
Coyote are the co-creators of the
world, that leave just before the arrival of humans. The Yurok tribe
believed that Fox, in anger, captured the sun, and tied him to a hill,
causing him to burn a great hole in the ground. An
Inuit story tells
of how Fox, portrayed as a beautiful woman, tricks a hunter into
marrying her, only to resume her true form and leave after he offends
Menominee story tells of how
Fox is an untrustworthy friend to
Fox (1885) by Bruno Liljefors
The earliest historical records of fox hunting come from the fourth
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great is known to have hunted foxes and a
seal dated from 350 BC depicts a Persian horseman in the process
of spearing a fox. Xenophon, who viewed hunting as part of a cultured
man's education, advocated the killing of foxes as pests, as they
distracted hounds from hares. The Romans were hunting foxes by
80 AD. During the Dark Ages in Europe, foxes were considered
secondary quarries, but gradually grew in importance. Cnut the Great
reclassed foxes as Beasts of the Chase, a lower category of quarry
than Beasts of Venery. Foxes were gradually hunted less as vermin and
more as Beasts of the Chase, to the point that by the late 1200s,
Edward I had a royal pack of foxhounds and a specialised fox huntsman.
In this period, foxes were increasingly hunted above ground with
hounds, rather than underground with terriers. Edward, Second Duke of
York assisted the climb of foxes as more prestigious quarries in his
The Master of Game. By the Renaissance, fox hunting became a
traditional sport of the nobility. After the
English Civil War
English Civil War caused
a drop in deer populations, fox hunting grew in popularity. By the
mid-1600s, Britain was divided into fox hunting territories, with the
first fox hunting clubs being formed (the first was the Charlton Hunt
Club in 1737). The popularity of fox hunting in Britain reached a peak
during the 1700s.:21 Although already native to North America, red
foxes from England were imported for sporting purposes to
Maryland in 1730 by prosperous tobacco planters. These American
fox hunters considered the red species more sporting than grey
The grays furnished more fun, the reds more excitement. The grays did
not run so far, but usually kept near home, going in a circuit of six
or eight miles. 'An old red, generally so called irrespective of age,
as a tribute to his prowess, might lead the dogs all day, and end by
losing them as evening fell, after taking them a dead stretch for
thirty miles. The capture of a gray was what men boasted of ; a
chase after 'an old red' was what they 'yarned' about.
Red foxes are still widely persecuted as pests, with human-caused
deaths among the highest causes of mortality in the species. Annual
fox kills are: UK 21,500–25,000 (2000);
(2000–2001); Austria 58,000 (2000–2001); Sweden 58,000
(1999–2000); Finland 56,000 (2000–2001); Denmark 50,000
(1976–1977); Switzerland 34,832 (2001); Norway 17,000 (2000–2001);
Saskatchewan (Canada) 2,000 (2000–2001);
Nova Scotia (Canada) 491
Minnesota (US) 4,000-8,000 (average annual trapping
New Mexico (US) 69 (1999–2000).
Red fox pelts
Red foxes are among the most important furbearing animals harvested by
the fur trade. Their pelts are used for trimmings, scarfs, muffs,
jackets and coats. They are principally used as trimming for both
cloth coats and fur garments, including evening wraps.:229–230
The pelts of silver-morph foxes are popular as capes,:246 while
cross foxes are mostly used for scarves and rarely for
trimming.:252 The number of sold fox scarves exceeds the total
number of scarves made from other furbearers. However, this amount is
overshadowed by the total number of fox pelts used for trimming
purposes.:229–230 The silver morphs are the most valued by
furriers, followed by the cross and red morphs
respectively.:207> In the early 1900s, over 1,000 American fox
skins were imported to Britain annually, while 500,000 were exported
Germany and Russia.:6 The total worldwide trade of
wild red foxes in 1985–86 was 1,543,995 pelts. Foxes amounted to 45%
of US wild-caught pelts worth $50 million. Pelt prices are
increasing, with 2012 North American wholesale auction prices
averaging $39, and 2013 prices averaging $65.78.
North American red foxes, particularly those of northern Alaska, are
the most valued for their fur, as they have guard hairs of a silky
texture, which, after dressing, allow the wearer unrestricted
mobility. Red foxes living in southern Alaska's coastal areas and the
Aleutian Islands are an exception, as they have extremely coarse pelts
that rarely exceed one-third of the price of their northern Alaskan
cousins.:231 Most European peltries have coarse-textured fur
compared to North American varieties. The only exceptions are the
Nordic and Far Eastern Russian peltries, but they are still inferior
to North American peltries in terms of silkiness.:235
Livestock and pet predation
Carcass of a lamb near a fox den
Fox in a
Birmingham garden investigates a rabbit hutch
Red foxes may on occasions prey on lambs. Usually, lambs targeted by
foxes tend to be physically weakened specimens, but not invariably.
Lambs belonging to small breeds, such as Blackface, are more
vulnerable than larger breeds such as Merino. Twins may be more
vulnerable to foxes than singlets, as ewes cannot effectively defend
Crossbreeding small, upland ewes with larger,
lowland rams can cause difficult and prolonged labour for ewes due to
the heaviness of the resulting offspring, thus making the lambs more
at risk to fox predation. Lambs born from gimmers (ewes breeding for
the first time) are more often killed by foxes than those of
experienced mothers, who stick closer to their young.:166–167
Red foxes may prey on domestic rabbits and guinea pigs if they are
kept in open runs or are allowed to range freely in gardens. This
problem is usually averted by housing them in robust hutches and runs.
Urban foxes frequently encounter cats and may feed alongside them. In
physical confrontations, the cats usually have the upper hand.
Authenticated cases of foxes killing cats usually involve kittens.
Although most foxes do not prey on cats, some may do so, and may treat
them more as competitors rather than food.:180–181
Taming and domestication
Further information: Domesticated red fox
In their unmodified wild state, red foxes are generally unsuitable as
pets. Many supposedly abandoned kits are adopted by well-meaning
people during the spring period, though it is unlikely that vixens
would abandon their young. Actual orphans are rare, and the ones that
are adopted are likely kits that simply strayed from their den
site. Kits require almost constant supervision; when still
suckling, they require milk at four-hour intervals day and night. Once
weaned, they may become destructive to leather objects, furniture and
electric cables.:56 Though generally friendly toward people when
young, captive red foxes become fearful of humans, save for their
handlers, once they reach 10 weeks of age.:61 They maintain their
wild counterpart's strong instinct of concealment, and may pose a
threat to domestic birds, even when well fed.:122 Although
suspicious of strangers, they can form bonds with cats and dogs, even
ones bred for fox hunting. Tame foxes were once used to draw ducks
close to hunting blinds.:132–133
A strain of truly domesticated red foxes was introduced by Russian
geneticist Dmitry Belyayev who, over a 40-year period, bred several
generations of silver morph foxes on fur farms, selecting only those
individuals that showed the least fear of humans. Eventually,
Belyayev's team selected only those that showed the most positive
response to humans, thus resulting in a population of foxes whose
behaviour and appearance was significantly changed. After about ten
generations of controlled breeding, these foxes no longer showed any
fear of humans, and often wagged their tails and licked their human
caretakers to show affection. These behavioural changes were
accompanied by physical alterations, which included piebald coats,
floppy ears in pups, and curled tails, similar to traits that
distinguish domestic dogs from wolves.
Red fox in an urban environment
Red foxes have been exceedingly successful in colonising built-up
environments, especially lower-density suburbs, although many have
also been sighted in dense urban areas far from the countryside.
Throughout the twentieth century, they established themselves in many
Australian, European, Japanese, and North American cities. The species
first colonised British cities during the 1930s, entering
London during the 1940s, and later established themselves in Cambridge
and Norwich. In Australia, red foxes were recorded in
early as the 1930s, while in Zurich, Switzerland, they only starting
appearing in the 1980s. Urban red foxes are most common in
residential suburbs consisting of privately owned, low-density
housing. They are rare in areas where industry, commerce or
council-rented houses predominate. In these latter areas, the
distribution is of a lower average density because they rely less on
human resources; the home range of these foxes average from 80–90
hectares (200–220 acres), whereas those in more residential areas
average from 25–40 hectares (60–100 acres).
Red fox in central London
In 2006 it was estimated that there were 10,000 foxes in London.
City-dwelling foxes may have the potential to consistently grow larger
than their rural counterparts, as a result of abundant scraps and a
relative dearth of predators. In cities foxes may scavenge food from
litter bins and bin bags, although much of their diet will be similar
to rural foxes.
Eating from a bag of biscuits
Urban red foxes are most active at dusk and dawn, doing most of their
hunting and scavenging at these times. It is uncommon to spot them
during the day, but they can be caught sunbathing on roofs of houses
or sheds. Foxes will often make their homes in hidden and undisturbed
spots in urban areas as well as on the edges of a city, visiting at
night for sustenance. While foxes will scavenge successfully in the
city (and the foxes tend to eat anything that the humans eat) some
urban residents will deliberately leave food out for the animals,
finding them endearing. Doing this regularly can attract foxes to
one's home; they can become accustomed to human presence, warming up
to their providers by allowing themselves to be approached and in some
cases even played with, particularly young cubs.
Urban fox control
Urban foxes can cause problems for local residents. Foxes have been
known to steal chickens, disrupt rubbish bins and damage gardens. Most
complaints about urban foxes made to local authorities occur during
the breeding season in late January/early February or from late April
to August, when the new cubs are developing. In the UK, hunting
foxes in urban areas is banned, and shooting them in an urban
environment is not suitable. One alternative to hunting urban foxes
has been to trap them, which appears to be a more viable method.
However, killing foxes has little effect on the population in an urban
area; those that are killed are very soon replaced, either by new cubs
during the breeding season or by other foxes moving into the territory
of those that were killed. A more effective method of fox control is
to deter them from the specific areas they inhabit. Deterrents such as
creosote, diesel oil, or ammonia can be used. Cleaning up and blocking
access to den locations can also discourage a fox's return.
"Fleet" the urban fox from the BBC's Winterwatch
Relationship between urban and rural foxes
In January 2014 it was reported that "Fleet", a relatively tame urban
fox tracked as part of a wider study by the
University of Brighton
University of Brighton in
partnership with the BBC's Winterwatch, had unexpectedly travelled 195
miles in 21 days from his neighbourhood in Hove, at the western edge
of East Sussex, across rural countryside as far as Rye, at the eastern
edge of the county. He was still continuing his journey when the GPS
collar stopped transmitting, due to suspected water damage. Along with
setting a record for the longest journey undertaken by a tracked fox
in the United Kingdom, his travels have highlighted the fluidity of
movement between rural and urban fox populations.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to the red fox.
Wikispecies has information related to Red fox
Fox in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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Golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)
Owston's palm civet
Owston's palm civet (C. owstoni)
Otter civet (C. bennettii)
Hose's palm civet
Hose's palm civet (D. hosei)
Banded palm civet
Banded palm civet (H. derbyanus)
Banded linsang (P. linsang)
Spotted linsang (P. pardicolor)
African civet (C. civetta)
Abyssinian genet (G. abyssinica)
Angolan genet (G. angolensis)
Bourlon's genet (G. bourloni)
Crested servaline genet
Crested servaline genet (G. cristata)
Common genet (G. genetta)
Johnston's genet (G. johnstoni)
Rusty-spotted genet (G. maculata)
Pardine genet (G. pardina)
Aquatic genet (G. piscivora)
King genet (G. poensis)
Servaline genet (G. servalina)
Haussa genet (G. thierryi)
Cape genet (G. tigrina)
Giant forest genet
Giant forest genet (G. victoriae)
African linsang (P. richardsonii)
Leighton's linsang (P. leightoni)
Malabar large-spotted civet
Malabar large-spotted civet (V. civettina)
Large-spotted civet (V. megaspila)
Malayan civet (V. tangalunga)
Large Indian civet
Large Indian civet (V. zibetha)
Small Indian civet
Small Indian civet (V. indica)
Fossa (C. ferox)
Eastern falanouc (E. goudotii)
Western falanouc (E. major)
Malagasy civet (F. fossana)
Ring-tailed mongoose (G. elegans)
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose (G. fasciata)
Grandidier's mongoose (G. grandidieri)
Narrow-striped mongoose (M. decemlineata)
Brown-tailed mongoose (S. concolor)
Durrell's vontsira (S. durrelli)
Caniformia (cont. below)
Giant panda (A. melanoleuca)
Sun bear (H. malayanus)
Sloth bear (M. ursinus)
Spectacled bear (T. ornatus)
American black bear
American black bear (U. americanus)
Brown bear (U. arctos)
Polar bear (U. maritimus)
Asian black bear
Asian black bear (U. thibetanus)
Molina's hog-nosed skunk
Molina's hog-nosed skunk (C. chinga)
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk (C. humboldtii)
American hog-nosed skunk
American hog-nosed skunk (C. leuconotus)
Striped hog-nosed skunk
Striped hog-nosed skunk (C. semistriatus)
Hooded skunk (M. macroura)
Striped skunk (M. mephitis)
Sunda stink badger
Sunda stink badger (M. javanensis)
Palawan stink badger
Palawan stink badger (M. marchei)
Southern spotted skunk
Southern spotted skunk (S. angustifrons)
Western spotted skunk
Western spotted skunk (S. gracilis)
Eastern spotted skunk
Eastern spotted skunk (S. putorius)
Pygmy spotted skunk
Pygmy spotted skunk (S. pygmaea)
Eastern lowland olingo
Eastern lowland olingo (B. alleni)
Northern olingo (B. gabbii)
Western lowland olingo
Western lowland olingo (B. medius)
Olinguito (B. neblina)
Ring-tailed cat (B. astutus)
Cacomistle (B. sumichrasti)
White-nosed coati (N. narica)
South American coati
South American coati (N. nasua)
Western mountain coati (N. olivacea)
Eastern mountain coati (N. meridensis)
Kinkajou (P. flavus)
Crab-eating raccoon (P. cancrivorus)
Raccoon (P. lotor)
Cozumel raccoon (P. pygmaeus)
Red panda (A. fulgens)
Caniformia (cont. above)
(includes fur seals
and sea lions)
South American fur seal
South American fur seal (A. australis)
Australasian fur seal (A. forsteri)
Galápagos fur seal
Galápagos fur seal (A. galapagoensis)
Antarctic fur seal
Antarctic fur seal (A. gazella)
Juan Fernández fur seal
Juan Fernández fur seal (A. philippii)
Brown fur seal
Brown fur seal (A. pusillus)
Guadalupe fur seal
Guadalupe fur seal (A. townsendi)
Subantarctic fur seal
Subantarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis)
Northern fur seal
Northern fur seal (C. ursinus)
Steller sea lion
Steller sea lion (E. jubatus)
Australian sea lion
Australian sea lion (N. cinerea)
South American sea lion
South American sea lion (O. flavescens)
New Zealand sea lion (P. hookeri)
California sea lion (Z. californianus)
Galápagos sea lion
Galápagos sea lion (Z. wollebaeki)
Walrus (O. rosmarus)
Hooded seal (C. cristata)
Bearded seal (E. barbatus)
Gray seal (H. grypus)
Ribbon seal (H. fasciata)
Leopard seal (H. leptonyx)
Weddell seal (L. weddellii)
Crabeater seal (L. carcinophagus)
Northern elephant seal
Northern elephant seal (M. angustirostris)
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal (M. leonina)
Mediterranean monk seal
Mediterranean monk seal (M. monachus)
Hawaiian monk seal
Hawaiian monk seal (M. schauinslandi)
Ross seal (O. rossi)
Harp seal (P. groenlandicus)
Spotted seal (P. largha)
Harbor seal (P. vitulina)
Caspian seal (P. caspica)
Ringed seal (P. hispida)
Baikal seal (P. sibirica)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Canidae (includes dogs)
Short-eared dog (A. microtis)
Side-striped jackal (C. adustus)
African golden wolf
African golden wolf (C. anthus)
Golden jackal (C. aureus)
Coyote (C. latrans)
Gray wolf (C. lupus)
Black-backed jackal (C. mesomelas)
Red wolf (C. rufus)
Ethiopian wolf (C. simensis)
Crab-eating fox (C. thous)
Maned wolf (C. brachyurus)
Dhole (C. alpinus)
Culpeo (L. culpaeus)
Darwin's fox (L. fulvipes)
South American gray fox
South American gray fox (L. griseus)
Pampas fox (L. gymnocercus)
Sechuran fox (L. sechurae)
Hoary fox (L. vetulus)
African wild dog
African wild dog (L. pictus)
Raccoon dog (N. procyonoides)
Bat-eared fox (O. megalotis)
Bush dog (S. venaticus)
Gray fox (U. cinereoargenteus)
Island fox (U. littoralis)
Bengal fox (V. bengalensis)
Blanford's fox (V. cana)
Cape fox (V. chama)
Corsac fox (V. corsac)
Tibetan sand fox
Tibetan sand fox (V. ferrilata)
Arctic fox (V. lagopus)
Kit fox (V. macrotis)
Pale fox (V. pallida)
Rüppell's fox (V. rueppelli)
Swift fox (V. velox)
Red fox (V. vulpes)
Fennec fox (V. zerda)
African clawless otter
African clawless otter (A. capensis)
Oriental small-clawed otter
Oriental small-clawed otter (A. cinerea)
Sea otter (E. lutris)
Spotted-necked otter (H. maculicollis)
North American river otter
North American river otter (L. canadensis)
Marine otter (L. felina)
Neotropical otter (L. longicaudis)
Southern river otter
Southern river otter (L. provocax)
Eurasian otter (L. lutra)
Hairy-nosed otter (L. sumatrana)
Smooth-coated otter (L. perspicillata)
Giant otter (P. brasiliensis)
Hog badger (A. collaris)
Tayra (E. barbara)
Lesser grison (G. cuja)
Greater grison (G. vittata)
Wolverine (G. gulo)
Saharan striped polecat
Saharan striped polecat (I. libyca)
Striped polecat (I. striatus)
Patagonian weasel (L. patagonicus)
American marten (M. americana)
Yellow-throated marten (M. flavigula)
Beech marten (M. foina)
Nilgiri marten (M. gwatkinsii)
European pine marten
European pine marten (M. martes)
Japanese marten (M. melampus)
Sable (M. zibellina)
Fisher (P. pennanti)
Japanese badger (M. anakuma)
Asian badger (M. leucurus)
European badger (M. meles)
Honey badger (M. capensis)
Bornean ferret-badger (M. everetti)
Chinese ferret-badger (M. moschata)
Javan ferret-badger (M. orientalis)
Burmese ferret-badger (M. personata)
(Weasels and Ferrets)
Amazon weasel (M. africana)
Mountain weasel (M. altaica)
Stoat (M. erminea)
Steppe polecat (M. eversmannii)
Colombian weasel (M. felipei)
Long-tailed weasel (M. frenata)
Japanese weasel (M. itatsi)
Yellow-bellied weasel (M. kathiah)
European mink (M. lutreola)
Indonesian mountain weasel
Indonesian mountain weasel (M. lutreolina)
Black-footed ferret (M. nigripes)
Least weasel (M. nivalis)
Malayan weasel (M. nudipes)
European polecat (M. putorius)
Siberian weasel (M. sibirica)
Back-striped weasel (M. strigidorsa)
Egyptian weasel (M. subpalmata)
American mink (N. vison)
African striped weasel
African striped weasel (P. albinucha)
American badger (T. taxus)
Marbled polecat (V. peregusna)
Game animals and shooting in North America
Snipe (common snipe)
Cougar (mountain lion)
Big game hunting
Game animals and shooting in the United Kingdom
Greater white-fronted goose2
League Against Cruel Sports
Game Act 1831
Hunting Act 2004
British Association for
Shooting and Conservation
Hunting and shooting in the United Kingdom
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust
Driven grouse shooting
1 Rarely shot due to declining numbers.
2 England and Wales only; protected in Scotland.
Fauna Europaea: 305294