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Home > Blog > Wildlife of the Week > The Elusive Red Fox: Wildlife of the Week – 2022 Week 18

Posted: May 8, 2022

Our Wildlife of the Week – 2022 Week 18…

Meet the “Red Fox”!

(Vulpes vulpes)
Red Fox in Denali National Park and Preserve
Red foxes, despite the name, can range in color from red to black to a sort of calico mix of tan and brown shades. A fox that isn’t very red is sometimes called a ‘cross fox.’

Red Fox Physical Description

Coloration of Red Foxes ranges from pale yellowish red to deep reddish brown on the upper parts and white, ashy or salty on the underside. The lower part of the legs is usually black and the tail usually has a white or black tip. Two color variants commonly occur. Cross Foxes have reddish brown fur with a black stripe down the back and another across the shoulders. Silver Foxes range from strong silver to nearly black and are the most prized by furriers. These variants are about 25% and 10% of Red Fox individuals, respectively.1

Red Foxes, like many other canid species, have tail glands. In Vulpes vulpes this gland is located 2.95 in (75 mm) above the root of the tail on its upper surface and lies within the dermis (skin) and subcutaneous (under the skin) tissue. The eyes of mature animals are yellow. The nose is dark brown or black. The tooth row is more than half the length of the skull. Molar structure emphasizes crushing. The manus (the end of a forelimb, corresponding to the hand and wrist in humans) has 5 claws and the foot 4 claws. The first digit, or dew claw, is rudimentary but clawed and does not contact the ground.1

Red Fox and kits near Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park
Red Fox and kits near Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park

Red Foxes are the largest of the Vulpes species. Head and body length ranges from 17.91 to 35.4 in (455 to 900 mm), tail length from 11.8 to 21.9 in (300 to 555 mm), and weight from 6.6 to 30.9 lbs (3 to 14 kg). Males are slightly larger than females. Populations in southern deserts and in North America are smaller than European populations. Body mass and length among populations also varies with latitude (being larger in the north, according to Bergmann’s rule).1

*Bergmann’s Rule, in zoology is the principle correlating external temperature and the ratio of body surface to weight in warm-blooded animals. Birds and mammals in cold regions have been observed to be bulkier than individuals of the same species in warm regions. The principle was proposed by Carl Bergmann, a 19th-century German biologist, to account for an adaptive mechanism to conserve or to radiate body heat, depending on climate.3

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Red Fox In Action

Hunting Red Fox in Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park
Hunting Red Fox in Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park

Red Foxes are solitary animals and do not form packs like wolves. During some parts of the year adjacent ranges may overlap somewhat, but parts may be regularly defended. In other words, Red Foxes are at least partly territorial. Ranges are occupied by an adult male and one or two adult females with their associated young. Individuals and family groups have main earthen dens and often other emergency burrows in the home range. Dens of other animals, such as rabbits or marmots, are often taken over by foxes. Larger dens may be dug and used during the winter and during birth and rearing of the young. The same den is often used over a number of generations.1

Pathways throughout the home range connect the main den with other resting sites, favored hunting grounds and food storage areas. Red Foxes are terrestrial (living on or in the ground) and either nocturnal or crepuscular (active primarily during the twilight period). Top speed is about 30 mph (48 kph) and obstacles as high as 6 feet (2 m) can be leapt. In the autumn following birth, the pups of the litter will disperse to their own territories. Dispersal can be to areas as nearby as 6 miles (10 km) and as far away as almost 248 miles (400 km). Animals remain in the same home range for life.1

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Where to Spot Red Fox

Red Fox near Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park
Red Fox near Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park

Red Foxes utilize a wide range of habitats including forest, tundra, prairie, desert, mountains, farmlands, and urban areas. They prefer mixed vegetation communities, such as edge habitats and mixed scrub and woodland. They are found from sea level to 14,763 feet (4500 meters) in elevation.1

Red Foxes are found throughout much of the northern hemisphere from the Arctic circle to Central America, the steppes of central Asia, and northern Africa. This species has the widest distribution of any canid. Red foxes have also been introduced to Australia and the Falkland Islands.1

The Red Fox can be found in over 44 National Parks and many other National Park Service sites.2 Including:

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Red Fox Conservation Status

A Red Fox on the Denali Park Road in Denali National Park and Preserve
A Red Fox on the Denali Park Road in Denali National Park and Preserve

Three subspecies of Red Foxes are listed in CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) appendix III. All three subspecies are located in India. Overall, Red Fox populations are stable and they have expanded their range in response to human changes in habitats.1

Red Foxes help to control populations of their prey animals, such as rodents and rabbits. They also may disperse seeds by eating fruit.1

Red Foxes are important fur bearers and more are raised on farms than any other wild fur bearing mammal. Red Foxes are considered by many to be threats to poultry. In general, foxes hunt their natural prey, but individual foxes may learn to target domestic birds if they are not adequately protected. Foxes are known vectors for rabies and can transmit the disease to humans and other animals.1


Red Fox and You

Have you seen a Red Fox in it’s natural environment? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Check out this amazing beginners guide from National Geographic:
National Geographic Photo Basics The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Great Photography

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‘We got some of the above information from the following:
1: Animal Diversity Web – Vulpes Vulpes – Red Fox
2: NPSpecies – Find Parks Where a Species is Found
3: Britannica – Bergmann’s Rule

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