Foxes are smart, secretive creatures, which is probably what makes them so fascinating. Foxes can also be destructive — they often cause extensive property damage when scavenging for food, and they pose a significant threat to poultry farmers. Below are a few interesting fox facts to help you get to know your adversary.
Most Common U.S. Species:
- Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
- Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
Average Size: 32-50" long (including tail); 7-15 lbs.
Average Lifespan in the Wild: 1-3 years.
Identifying Features: dog-like appearance; reddish or greyish goat with lighter under fur; pointed ears and a snout with a black nose; long, bushy tail.
Over 20 species of foxes can be found inhabiting every continent of the world, except for Antarctica. The most common fox is the red fox, which has a range throughout most of North America, Eurasia and Australia.
The U.S. is home to four different fox species: the red fox, gray fox, swift fox and kit fox. The red fox is most populous, followed by the gray fox, and these two species have the most widespread ranges throughout the country.
Foxes are extremely adaptable - they can thrive in a variety of environments including in and around human habitats such as farms and suburban neighborhoods. While they’re quite flexible, red foxes favor open spaces with available cover. One important element of a fox’s environment is a nearby source of freshwater like a stream, creek or lake.
The feeding habits of a fox are opportunistic. Foxes are omnivores that eat a variety of plant and animal matter, depending on what’s available in thier habitats. Known as cunning predators, foxes commonly hunt small vertibrates and invertibrates, and they’re commonly found raiding farms and other livestock facilities.
Some favorite foods include:
Activity: Foxes are crepuscular - mostly active during the low-light hours of the early morning and early evening.
Reproduction: Mating occurs once per year, beginning in early winter. Females give birth to an average of 4-6 pups between March and May.
Social Interaction: Foxes typically live in small family groups. Within the family group, a strict hierarchy of dominance is established where some kits thrive and others do not. When the young disperse from the group, they are solitary until they find a mate.
Communication:Vocalizations and body language are used to communicate a variety of sentiments among foxes. For example, movements of their ears and tails may communicate dominance, submission, or flirtation. A range of calls and other sounds may indicate pleasure, displeasure, fear or simply a greeting.
The majority of fox damage occurs when they are foraging for food in your garden, farm, barn or poultry house.
Some signs of damage include:
- Pilfered garden fruits
- Trampled flowers and vegetation
- Predation of poultry and/or livestock
- Stolen poultry eggs
- Foul ammonia-like odor left behind when scent-marking
- Fox dens: long burrows dug in loose, well-drained soil; multiple entrance holes, often marked by animal remains or carcasses.
- Fox tracks: similar to a small dog; four toes on front and hind paws; visible claw marks ahead of each toe.
- Visual identification: foxes emerge from their dens to hunt in the early morning and early evening
Foxes are born deaf, blind, and toothless. Their eyes and ears only open for the first time after about two weeks of weaning.
Male foxes are called "dogs" and females are called "vixens".
Gray foxes are very skilled climbers, known to scale trees and fences when hunting for food.
Whiskers are found not only on a fox's face, but also his legs. This helps him to better navigate in his dark den.
A group of foxes is reffered to as a "leash", "skulk" or "earth".
Like cats, foxes have vertially oriented pupils, which help them to see in low-light situations.