Mammal. Native to Europe, Asia, North Africa, and boreal regions of North America, European red foxes have been introduced into Australia and temperate regions of North America. Introduced red foxes have negative impacts on many native species , including smaller canids and ground nesting birds in North America, and many small and medium-sized rodent and marsupial species in Australia. Valuable to humans for sport hunting/trapping and as farm-raised animals, where they generate millions of dollars a year worldwide. The number of foxes being raised commercially for their fur now exceeds that of any other animal, except possibly the mink. Wild-caught red foxes are also valuable game animal in many regions of the world. Sport hunting might involve elaborate chases using horses and dogs, or lone hunters using predator calls to lure foxes towards them.
Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in Chinese:
Common Names in Dutch:
Common Names in English:
Black fox, Cross fox, red fox, Silver fox
Common Names in French:
Renard, renard roux
Common Names in German:
Common Names in Italian:
Common Names in Lithuanian:
Common Names in Norwegian:
Common Names in Polish:
Common Names in Portuguese:
Common Names in Russian:
Common Names in Spanish:
zorro, Zorro Rojo
Species Vulpes vulpes
Three color morphs
are generally recognized: red, silver or black,
. A pale-yellowish color morph is common on the Arabian
peninsula, and within native
in North America. In general,
and abdomen are white, lower legs
and ears are black, and
a bushy tail is tipped in white. This species exhibits
a wide geographic
and subspecies variation in size, as body length
to 90 cm, tail length from 30 to 55 cm, and body mass from 3 to 14
The Red Fox adult weighs from six to 10 pounds with the male about one fourth larger than the female. The thick fur makes it appear larger than it really is. The white-tipped tail comprises one third of the length . Fur on the back is often reddish, while the belly, chest, and chin are white and the legs, muzzle , and the back of the ears are black. Rocky Mountain Red Foxes are larger and more yellow than eastern Red Foxes. Additional color variations include a black phase (almost completely black) and a silver phase (black with silvertipped hairs ). This “silver fox” is highly prized by furriers.
Red foxes have been known to live 10 to 12 years in captivity but live on average 3 years in the wild.
Can occur in nearly all habitat types , including arctic tundra , desert, temperate forests, boreal forests , meadows, grasslands, agricultural and urban environments. They probably attain their highest densities in human-dominated habitats.
Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 5,469 meters (0 to 17,943 feet).
Red Foxes have been recorded in habitats
, as well as in city centres (including London, Paris,
). Natural habitat is dry, mixed landscape, with abundant
" of scrub
and woodland. They are also abundant on moorlands,
mountains (even above the treeline, known to cross
dunes and farmland from sea
level to 4,500 m.
UK, they generally prefer mosaic
patchworks of scrub, woodland and
farmland. Red foxes flourish particularly well in urban areas. They
are most common in residential suburbs consisting of privately owned,
low-density housing and are less common where industry
or council rented housing predominates (Harris and Smith 1987). In
many habitats, foxes appear to be closely associated with man, even
thriving in intensive agricultural areas..
List of Habitats:
- 1 Forest
- 1.4 Forest - Temperate
- 3 Shrubland
- 3.4 Shrubland - Temperate
- 4 Grassland
- 4.1 Grassland - Tundra
- 4.2 Grassland - Subarctic
- 4.4 Grassland - Temperate
- 5 Wetlands (inland)
- 5.3 Wetlands (inland) - Shrub Dominated Wetlands
- 8 Desert
- 8.1 Desert - Hot
- 8.2 Desert - Temperate
- 14 Artificial/Terrestrial
- 14.1 Artificial/Terrestrial - Arable Land
- 14.2 Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland
- 14.3 Artificial/Terrestrial - Plantations
- 14.4 Artificial/Terrestrial - Rural Gardens
- 14.5 Artificial/Terrestrial - Urban Areas [more info]
The majority of its diet
consists of rodents, rabbits, and other
small mammals. It will also consume fruits, berries
, insects, and
Red Foxes are opportunistic feeders . Small mammals and rabbits constitute much of the diet during the year. Other kinds of prey fluctuate according to season , weather conditions, and abundance . Crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles and crayfish are common foods; they will eat birds, amphibians and reptiles , and eggs . In summer, they may feed heavily on vegetation, including corn, berries, apples, cherries, grapes and acorns . They need the equivalent of 100 mice per week in order to survive and will cache food for lean times.
Females are monestrous with a 1-6 day estrus
cycle. In temperate
environments, breeding occurs from December to April (later in more
). In Australia, breeding occurs between June and
October. Litter sizes
from 1 to 12, with average litter sizes
being 3 to 6 pups
. Litter sizes can increase with higher food availability,
and with age of females.
Parturition occurs after a gestation of 51-53 days. Lactation lasts for approximately 5 weeks, and weaning occurs gradually. Females can breed before 1 year of age, however, in areas of high density most yearlings do not produce pups. Red foxes can live up to 9 years in the wild, although few individuals live up to 6 years. In the northern hemisphere, dispersal usually occurs from September to January. Males disperse farther than females.
Although Red Foxes are solitary for some of the year, during the winter mating season , they form inseparable pair bonds, hunting and playing together. Shortly after mating, the female, or vixen, chooses a den site for raising her young. After a 52-day gestation, a litter of 4 to ten pups is born. The young are born blind; their eyes open at about one week of age. The male partner will provision his mate and pups with Red Fox tracks. San Juan Rio Arriba Taos Colfax Union Harding Mora San Miguel Quay Guadalupe Curry Santa Fe Los Alamos Torrance Valencia Bernalillo McKinley Cibola Catron Socorro Lincoln Sierra Grant Luna Dona Aña Otero Hidalgo Eddy Lea Chaves Roosevelt De Baca Sandoval Shaded areas denote counties where the Red Fox has been sighted. food but does not go into the maternity den. Sometimes offspring from a previous year will help care for the pups. Young do not become independent for five months, but may make forays outside the den after a month or so. As young foxes become weaned, the parents will bring them live prey . “Playing” with live prey helps the kits develop hunting and killing skills. Later the young begin to hunt with the parents. They remain with their parents at least until the fall of the year they were born and will sometimes remain longer . However, the maternity den is usually abandoned by late summer. (Ref. 109946)
Red Foxes maintain dens
in which to retreat during daylight hours
and bad weather, as well as to rear
young. Dens may be dug by the
foxes themselves or may be enlarged burrows dug by other small mammals.
Dens are usually located in areas of loose
soil on hillsides under
of heavy brush
. Most foxes maintain a home range
of 8 - 10 square
kilometers (3.1 - 3.9 square miles).
Red foxes use dens when there are pups and occasionally for shelter from bad weather. These may be located in a fallen tree , in a riverbank, or beneath roots . They may dig their own or use dens built by other animals like rabbits, marmots or badgers.
The average life span of the Red Fox is 4 - 5 years, but individuals have lived in captivity for as long as 8 years. This species is susceptible to several infectious diseases, including mange, distemper, and rabies.
Regarded as the embodiment of cunning, Red Foxes are often included in folklore with a reputation for being clever and crafty. Red Foxes hunt by smell, sight and hearing. They are catlike in stalking prey ; they rely more on the element of surprise than speed . After picking up a scent and following it for a ways, they will pause and look around, often leaping to a high place to get a vantage point . High leaps may also be used to forcibly pin prey to the ground . Red Foxes have remarkable low frequency hearing. They listen for underground digging, gnawing, and rustling of small mammals, then dig in the dirt or snow to catch prey. Red Foxes make hunting trails and follow them night after night. They are largely nocturnal hunters. (Ref. 109946)
Most Red Foxes that are taken by natural predators are young. Golden Eagles, large owls, coyotes and bobcats may kill pups . The adult Red Fox has few enemies other than humans, domestic dogs and the automobile, but rabies, mange, and distemper can be problems. Destruction of habitat also takes a toll on populations.
Red Foxes make a short “yip” noise for an alarm bark and use a variety of vocalizations to communicate among themselves. They also have scent glands which give them a particular odor, allowing them to identify each other.
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Rowe, 1988) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- (Wible et al., 1995) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- McKenna, 1975
- McKenna, 1975
- McKenna, 1975
- (McKenna, 1975) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- (Parker & Haswell, 1897) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- (Owen, 1837) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- (Mckenna, 1975) M.c. Mckenna & S.k. Bell, 1997
- (McKenna, 1975) McKenna, in Stucky & McKenna, in Benton, ed., 1993
- (Linnaeus, 1758) McKenna, 1975
- Bowdich, 1821
- Suborder: Caniformia () - Kretzoi, 1943
- Order: Carnivora () - Bowdich, 1821
- Grandorder: Ferae () - (Linnaeus, 1758) McKenna, 1975
- Superorder: Preptotheria () - (McKenna, 1975) McKenna, in Stucky & McKenna, in Benton, ed., 1993
- Magnorder: Epitheria () - (Mckenna, 1975) M.c. Mckenna & S.k. Bell, 1997
- Cohort: Placentalia () - (Owen, 1837) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Supercohort: Theria () - (Parker & Haswell, 1897) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Infralegion: Tribosphenida () - (McKenna, 1975) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Sublegion: Zatheria () - McKenna, 1975
- Legion: Cladotheria () - McKenna, 1975
- Superlegion: Trechnotheria () - McKenna, 1975
- Infraclass: Holotheria () - (Wible et al., 1995) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Subclass: Theriiformes () - (Rowe, 1988) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Class: Mammalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Status: Accepted Name
Last scrutiny: 15-Aug-2007
The Gray Fox and the Coyote do not have a white tip on their tail or black feet, legs, underside of tail, and ear edges. All of these marks are common in Red Foxes.
Members of the genus Vulpes
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 25 species and subspecies in this genus:
V. bengalensis (Indian Fox) · V. cana (Blandford's Fox) · V. chama (Silver Jackal) · V. corsac (Corsac Fox) · V. ferrilata (Tibetan Sand Fox) · V. lagopus (Arctic Fox) · V. lagopus lagopus (Arctic Fox) · V. macrotis (Kit Fox) · V. macrotis macrotis (Kit Fox) · V. macrotis mutica (Kit Fox) · V. pallida (African Sand Fox) · V. pallida pallida (African Sand Fox) · V. rueppellii (Rueppel's Fox) · V. velox (Swift Fox) · V. velox hebes (Northern Swift Fox) · V. velox macrotis (San Joaquin Kit Fox) · V. velox mutica (San Joaquin Kit Fox) · V. velox velox (Swift Fox) · V. vulpes (Silver Fox) · V. vulpes arabica (Red Fox) · V. vulpes fulva (Eastern Red Fox) · V. vulpes necator (Sierra Nevada Red Fox) · V. vulpes velox (Swift Fox) · V. vulpes vulpes (Red Fox) · V. zerda (Fennec Fox)
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Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 18, 2007:
- Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science, Mammal specimens
- Marine Science Institute, UCSB, Paleobiology Database
- Michigan State University Museum, Vertebrate specimens
- Museum of Texas Tech University
- , Mammal specimens
- Royal Ontario Museum, Mammal specimens
- Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara Musem of Natural History
- Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Mammal Collection
- UK National Biodiversity Network, Biological Records Centre - Mammal records from Britain from the Atlas of Mammals
- , with some subsequent records
- UK National Biodiversity Network, Scottish Borders Biological Records Centre - SWT Scottish Borders Local Wildlife Site Survey data 1996-2000 - species information
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 105460
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: ITS-726961
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 5347612
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 180604
- IUCN ID: 248827
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: AMAJA03010
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 124
- New Mexico Wildlife. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Version of April 24, 2009. [back]
- Mean = 320.150 meters (1,050.361 feet), Standard Deviation = 386.850 based on 17,780 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
- Macdonald, D.W. & Reynolds, J.C. 2008. Vulpes vulpes. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 05 February 2012. [back]