Red Foxes: From Farmland to Across the Globe

Become a red fox expert by reading a number of red fox facts, including what makes a fox den, the life of a fox kit and the role red foxes play in nature.

| November/December 2013

Mother Fox and Baby Fox

A red fox vixen and her kit.

Photo By Fotolia/Schaef

The red fox easily adapts to its environment and can be found across the globe.

If you’ve ever seen the red fox in nature, consider yourself lucky. These creatures are cunning, cautious, and learn well from experience, sort of like a domestic pup quickly learns not to get too close to livestock after taking a hoof to the head. Some critters are smarter than others, and the reputed slyness of the fox, specifically the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), has served it well.

The red fox is among the most widespread predators on the planet. This species is found in northern Africa, most of Asia, throughout Europe (including Ireland and Britain), and across most of North America from Alaska to Mexico. Red foxes also inhabit most of Australia, having been introduced in the 1870s by English settlers who wanted to enjoy fox hunting. The animal’s wide distribution is attributable to its ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats, from cold northern forests to hot southern swamps, deserts, prairies, farmland, well-manicured suburbs and even occasionally the heart of cities.

The red fox gets its name from the fact that most have reddish-orange fur on their bodies, heads and tails. The lower legs are usually black (sometimes known as “socks”), as are the backs of their ears and parts of their muzzles. The tip of the tail is white, as is the throat and belly.

A couple of other color phases, or variations, are found in this species as well. The melanistic phase is completely black, the silver phase (highly prized for its fur) has black fur with white tips, and the cross phase is red with black across the shoulders.

The cross phase is common in Europe and is often seen in North American foxes, probably because European foxes were introduced to North America some time in the 1700s for hunting purposes. The silver phase and cross phase are rarely seen south of Canada.

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