Red Fox

Vulpes vulpes

The red fox is the largest of the true foxes, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America and the steppes of Asia. Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered harmful to native mammal and bird populations. Because of these factors, it is listed as Least Concern for extinction by the IUCN. It is listed among the "world's 100 worst invasive species".

The red fox originated from smaller-sized ancestors from Eurasia during the Middle Villafranchian period, and colonised North America shortly after the Wisconsian 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 and, unlike most of its cousins, is not listed as Endangered anywhere. Despite its name, the species often produces individuals with abnormal colourings, including albinos and melanists. Forty-five subspecies are currently recognised, which are divided into two categories: the large northern foxes, and the small, primitive southern foxes of Asia and the Middle East.

Red foxes are social animals, whose groups are led by a mated pair which monopolises breeding. Subordinates within a group are typically the young of the mated pair, who remain with their parents to assist in caring for new kits. The species primarily feeds on small rodents, though it may also target leporids, game birds, reptiles, invertebrates and young ungulates. Fruit and vegetable matter is also eaten on occasion. Although the red fox tends to displace or even kill its smaller cousins, it is nonetheless vulnerable to attack from larger predators such as wolves, coyotes, golden jackals and medium and large felines.

The species has a long history of association with humans, having been extensively hunted as a pest and furbearer for centuries, as well as being prominently 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.
The red fox - Vulpes vulpes Headshot of a Red Fox staring at the camera. Canidae,Closeup,Fox,Geotagged,Mammals,The Netherlands,Vulpes vulpes

Naming

As of 2005, 45 subspecies are recognised. In 2010, another possible distinct subspecies was discovered in Sacramento Valley through mitochondrial haplotype studies.

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 Siberia and Scandinavia. European foxes were introduced to portions of the USA in the 18th century, thus crossbreeding with local North American populations. Also, introduced eastern red foxes in California may be interbreeding with local ''V. vulpes necator'' populations. Red fox subspecies are divided into two categories:

⤷ Northern foxes: Large, brightly colored foxes.
⤷ Southern grey desert foxes: Includes the Asian subspecies ''griffithi'', ''pusilla'' and ''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 are also 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.
Camera Shy Fox Red fox refusing to pose properly ;) Animal Kingdom,Humor,animal,fox,red fox,vos,vulpes vulpes

Behavior

Red foxes either establish stable home ranges within particular areas or are itinerant with no fixed abode. They use their urine to mark their territories. Urine is also used to mark empty cache sites, as reminders not to waste time investigating them. 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 1-2, sometimes up to 8 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.




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 overly complex. 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 and broadens into a den, from which numerous side tunnels branch. Burrow depth ranges from 0.5–2.5 metres, rarely extending to ground water. The main passage can reach 17 metres in length, standing an average of 5–7 metres. 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 metres 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.




Red foxes are omnivores with a highly varied diet. In the former Soviet Union, up to 300 animal and a few dozen plant species are known to be consumed by them. They primarily feed on small, mouse-like rodents like voles, mice, ground squirrels, hamsters, gerbils, woodchucks, pocket gophers and deer mice. Secondary prey species include birds , leporids, porcupines, raccoons, opossums, reptiles, insects, other invertebrates and flotsam . On very rare occasions, they may attack young or small ungulates. They typically target mammals up to about 3.5 kg in weight, and require 500 grams 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 tubers.

Red foxes prefer to hunt in the early morning hours before sunrise and late evening. 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 five metres 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. Red foxes may occasionally commit acts of surplus killing; during one breeding season, four foxes were recorded to have killed circa 200 black-headed gulls each, with peaks during dark, windy hours when flying conditions were unfavourable. Losses to poultry and penned game birds can be substantial because of this. Red foxes seem to dislike the taste of moles, but will nonetheless catch them alive and present them to their kids as playthings.
Red fox - Vulpes vulpes The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes and the most abundant member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America and Asia. Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered harmful to native mammals and bird populations. France,Geotagged,Red Fox,Vulpes vulpes,canidae,fox,mammal,mammals,red fox,volpe,vulpes vulpes

Reproduction

Red foxes reproduce once a year in spring. Two months prior to estrus , the reproductive organs of vixens change shape and size. By the time they enter their estrus 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 estrus period lasts 3 weeks, during which the dog-foxes mate with the vixens for several days, often in burrows. Copulation is accompanied by 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. Kits are born blind, deaf and toothless, with dark brown fluffy fur. At birth, they weigh 56–110 g and measure 14.5 cm in body length and 7.5 cm 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. If the mother dies before the kits are independent, the father takes over as their provider. The kit's 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 3 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 14 years, though in the wild they typically do not survive past 1.5 years of age.
Red Fox with a Meal I spotted this red fox cross the road while driving through Yellowstone National Park. It was a dreary, rainy day, but I parked on the side of the road and stalked it into the woods. When I came upon it, it was listening very carefully and watching the ground, likely for a meal. I used its intense focus on its prey to my advantage and was able to sneak within 10 meters! Before I was ready for a shot, the fox pounced and started digging and disappeared behind a tree stump. When it emerged, it had a mole and saw me and trotted into the woods. I followed, and I was able to catch the fox sitting and staring at me. I was able to get a few shots before it silently slipped in the woods for good. Perhaps the fox was a female and was heading back to her den with her catch to feed to her kits? Maybe that's why she didn't eat the mole right away...or maybe she was antsy because I was there. Canidae,Geotagged,Red Fox,Spring,United States,Vulpes vulpes,Wyoming,Yellowstone National Park,mammals

Food

Red foxes are omnivores with a highly varied diet. In the former Soviet Union, up to 300 animal and a few dozen plant species are known to be consumed by them. They primarily feed on small, mouse-like rodents like voles, mice, ground squirrels, hamsters, gerbils, woodchucks, pocket gophers and deer mice. Secondary prey species include birds , leporids, porcupines, raccoons, opossums, reptiles, insects, other invertebrates and flotsam . On very rare occasions, they may attack young or small ungulates. They typically target mammals up to about 3.5 kg in weight, and require 500 grams 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 tubers.

Red foxes prefer to hunt in the early morning hours before sunrise and late evening. 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 five metres 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. Red foxes may occasionally commit acts of surplus killing; during one breeding season, four foxes were recorded to have killed circa 200 black-headed gulls each, with peaks during dark, windy hours when flying conditions were unfavourable. Losses to poultry and penned game birds can be substantial because of this. Red foxes seem to dislike the taste of moles, but will nonetheless catch them alive and present them to their kids as playthings.




The earliest historical records of fox hunting come from the 4th century BC ; 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 13th century, 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 saw a drop in deer populations, fox hunting grew in popularity. By the mid 17th century, Britain was divided into fox hunting territories, with the first fox hunting clubs being formed . The popularity of fox hunting in Britain reached a peak during the 18th century. Although already native to North America, red foxes from England were imported for sporting purposes to Virginia and Maryland in 1730 by prosperous tobacco planters. These American fox hunters considered the red species more sporting than grey species.


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 being among the highest causes of mortality in the species. Annual fox kills are: UK 21,500–25,000 ; Germany 600,000 ; Austria 58,000 ; Sweden 58,000 ; Finland 56,000 ; Denmark 50,000 ; Switzerland 34,832 ; Norway 17,000 ; Saskatchewan 2,000 ; Nova Scotia 491 ; New Mexico 69 .
Red Beauty  Canada,Geotagged,Red Fox,Summer,Vulpes vulpes,canada,nature,wildlife,wildlife photography

Evolution

The red fox is considered a more specialised, progressive form of ''Vulpes'' than the Afghan, corsac and Bengal fox 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 maximally adapted for a carnivorous diet as the Tibetan fox is.
Loosing the Winter Coat Again, this red fox is the same fox I have photographed before. In this photo, she is found honing in on a mole that she caught moments after this picture was taken. You can see she is gangly looking, as she is losing her winter coat. Taken near Fishing Bridge, YNP. Geotagged,Red Fox,Spring,United States,Vulpes vulpes

Cultural

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 Echidna.

In European folklore, the figure of Reynard the Fox symbolises trickery and deceit. He originally appeared 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.

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 in order 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 and the hypocrisy of Herod Antipas .

The cunning 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 who often steals Coyote's food. In the Achomawi creation myth, Fox and Coyote are the co-creators of the world, who 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 her. A Menominee story tells of how Fox is an untrustworthy friend to the Wolf.

References:

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Status: Least concern | Trend: Stable
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC
Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyCanidae
GenusVulpes
SpeciesV. vulpes