The red fox is a small dog-like mammal, with a sharp-pointed face and a small body build that allows it to be quick on its feet. The red fox is known for its long bushy tail and lustrous rusty or orangish-red fur. Male and female foxes look very similar, however the male fox, called a dog is usually slightly larger than the vixen, its female counterpart.
Red foxes are solitary hunters who feed on rodents, rabbits, birds, and other small game—but their diet can be as flexible as their home habitat. Foxes will eat fruit and vegetables, fish, frogs, and even worms. If living among humans, foxes will opportunistically dine on garbage and pet food.
COMMON NAME: Red Fox
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Vulpes vulpes
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 2 to 4 years
SIZE: Head and body, 18 to 33.75 in; tail, 12 to 21.75 in
WEIGHT: 6.5 to 24 lbs
*** GREAT PLACE TO PHOTOGRAPH: Algonquin Park, Ontario
1. Foxes Are Solitary - They are part of the Canidae family, which means they’re related to wolves, jackals, and dogs. But unlike their relatives, foxes are not pack animals. When raising their young, they live in small families—called a “leash of foxes” or a “skulk of foxes”—in underground burrows. Otherwise, they hunt and sleep alone.
2. Foxes Have A Lot In Common With Cats - Like the cat, the fox is most active after the sun goes down. In fact, it has vertically oriented pupils that allow it to see in dim light. It even hunts in a similar manner to a cat, by stalking and pouncing on its prey. And that’s just the beginning of the similarities. The fox also has sensitive whiskers and spines on its tongue. It walks on its toes, which accounts for its elegant, cat-like tread. And—get this—many foxes have retractable claws that allow them to climb rooftops or trees. Some foxes even sleep in trees—just like cats.
3. The Red Fox Is The Most Common Fox - The red fox has the widest geographical range of any animal in the order Carnivora. While its natural habitat is a mixed landscape of scrub and woodland, its flexible diet allows it to adapt to many environments. As a result, its range is the entire Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to North Africa to Central America. It is also in Australia, where it’s considered an invasive species.
4. Foxes Use The Earth’s Magnetic Field - Like a guided missile, the fox harnesses the earth’s magnetic field to hunt. Other animals, like birds, sharks, and turtles, have this “magnetic sense,” but the fox is the first one we’ve discovered that uses it to catch prey. According to New Scientist, the fox can see the earth’s magnetic field as a “ring of shadow” on its eyes that darkens as it heads towards magnetic north. When the shadow and the sound the prey is making line up, it’s time to pounce. Here’s the fox in action:
5. Foxes Are Good Parents - Foxes reproduce once a year. Litters range from one to 11 pups (the average is six), which are born blind and don’t open their eyes until nine days after birth. During that time, they stay with the vixen (female) in the den while the dog (male) brings them food. They live with their parents until they're seven months old.
6. The Fox Appears Throughout Folklore - Examples include: the nine-tail fox from various Asian cultures; the Reynard tales from medieval Europe; the sly trickster fox from Native American lore; and Aesop’s “The Fox and the Crow.” The Finnish believed a fox made the Northern Lights by running in the snow so that its tail swept sparks into the sky. From this, we get the phrase “fox fires.”