Red Fox
Overview
The red fox is the largest of the true fox
Vulpes
Vulpes is a genus of the Canidae family. Its members are referred to as 'true foxes', although there are species in other genera whose common names include the word 'fox'....

es, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora
Carnivora
The diverse order Carnivora |Latin]] carō "flesh", + vorāre "to devour") includes over 260 species of placental mammals. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, while the word "carnivore" can refer to any meat-eating animal...

, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 from the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

 to North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

, and the steppes of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, where it is considered harmful to native mammal and bird populations. Because of these factors, it is listed as Least Concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 for extinction by the IUCN.
Encyclopedia
The red fox is the largest of the true fox
Vulpes
Vulpes is a genus of the Canidae family. Its members are referred to as 'true foxes', although there are species in other genera whose common names include the word 'fox'....

es, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora
Carnivora
The diverse order Carnivora |Latin]] carō "flesh", + vorāre "to devour") includes over 260 species of placental mammals. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, while the word "carnivore" can refer to any meat-eating animal...

, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 from the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

 to North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

, and the steppes of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, where it is considered harmful to native mammal and bird populations. Because of these factors, it is listed as Least Concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 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
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

 during the Middle Villafranchian period, and colonised North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 shortly after the Wisconsian glaciation. Among the true foxes, the red fox represents a more progressive form in the direction of carnivory
Carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

. 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
Albinism
Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin...

 and melanists
Melanism
Melanism is an undue development of dark-colored pigment in the skin or its appendages, and the opposite of albinism. It is also the medical term for black jaundice.The word is deduced from the , meaning black pigment....

. Forty-five subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 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, reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s, invertebrate
Invertebrate
An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. The group includes 97% of all animal species – all animals except those in the chordate subphylum Vertebrata .Invertebrates form a paraphyletic group...

s and young ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s. 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
Gray Wolf
The gray wolf , also known as the wolf, is the largest extant wild member of the Canidae family...

, coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s, golden jackal
Golden Jackal
The golden jackal , also known as the common jackal, Asiatic jackal, thos or gold-wolf is a Canid of the genus Canis indigenous to north and northeastern Africa, southeastern and central Europe , Asia Minor, the Middle East and southeast Asia...

s and medium and large felines
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

.

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
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

.

Evolution

The red fox is considered a more specialised, progressive form of Vulpes than the Afghan, corsac
Corsac Fox
The corsac fox , also known as the steppe fox, is a medium sized Asiatic fox species found throughout the central steppes of Asia. It is sometimes referred to as the "sand fox", but this terminology is confusing because two other species, the Tibetan sand fox and Rüppell's fox are also sometimes...

 and Bengal fox
Bengal Fox
The Bengal fox , also known as the Indian fox, is a fox endemic to the Indian subcontinent and is found from the Himalayan foothills and Terai of Nepal through southern India and from southern and eastern Pakistan to eastern India and southeastern Bangladesh.-Appearance:Vulpes bengalensis is a...

 in the direction of size and adaptation to carnivory
Carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

 ; the skull displays much fewer neotenous
Neoteny
Neoteny , also called juvenilization , is one of the two ways by which paedomorphism can arise. Paedomorphism is the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in juveniles, and is a subject studied in the field of developmental biology. In neoteny, the physiological development of an...

 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
Tibetan Fox
The Tibetan sand fox is a species of true fox endemic to the high Tibetan Plateau in Nepal, China, Sikkim, and Bhutan, up to altitudes of about 5300 m...

 is.

Origins

The species is Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

n in origin, and may have evolved from either Vulpes alopecoides or the related Chinese V. chikushanensis, both of which lived during the Middle Villafranchian. The earliest fossil specimens of Vulpes vulpes were uncovered in Barany, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 dating from between 3.4—1.8 million years ago.
The ancestral species was likely smaller than the current one, as the earliest red fox fossils are smaller than modern populations. The earliest fossil remains of the modern species date back to the mid-Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 in association with the refuse of early human settlements. This has led to the theory that the red fox was exploited by primitive humans as both a source of food and pelts.

Colonisation of North America

Red foxes migrated relatively late into the North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n continent, sometime after the Wisconsian glaciation. There are seemingly no records of the species' presence in North America antedating the Sangamonian, with the possible exception of the far north, where red fox fossils have been found in Sangamonian deposits in the Fairbanks District and Medicine Hat. Fossils dating from the Wisconsian are present in 25 sites in Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

, Missouri
Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 and Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

. Although they ranged far south during the Wisconsian, the onset of warm conditions shrank their range toward the north, and have only recently reclaimed their former American ranges thanks to human induced environmental changes. Genetic testing
Genetic testing
Genetic testing is among the newest and most sophisticated of techniques used to test for genetic disorders which involves direct examination of the DNA molecule itself. Other genetic tests include biochemical tests for such gene products as enzymes and other proteins and for microscopic...

 indicates that there are two distinct red fox refugiums in North America, which have been separated since the Wisconsian. The northern (or boreal) refugium occurs in Alaska and western Canada, and consists of the large subspecies alascensis, abietorum, regalis and rubricosa. The southern (or montane) refugium occurs in the Rocky Mountain's subalpine parklands and alpine meadows, the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada. It encompasses the subspecies macroura, cascadensis and necator. The latter clade has been separated from all other red fox populations since the last glacial maximum, and may possess unique ecological or physiological adaptations.

Subspecies

, 45 subspecies are recognised. In 2010, another possible distinct subspecies was discovered in Sacramento Valley
Sacramento Valley
The Sacramento Valley is the portion of the California Central Valley that lies to the north of the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta in the U.S. state of California. It encompasses all or parts of ten counties.-Geography:...

 through mitochondrial
Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA located in organelles called mitochondria, structures within eukaryotic cells that convert the chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, adenosine triphosphate...

 haplotype
Haplotype
A haplotype in genetics is a combination of alleles at adjacent locations on the chromosome that are transmitted together...

 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
    Neoteny
    Neoteny , also called juvenilization , is one of the two ways by which paedomorphism can arise. Paedomorphism is the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in juveniles, and is a subject studied in the field of developmental biology. In neoteny, the physiological development of an...

     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.

Build

Red foxes have elongated bodies and relatively short limbs. The tail, which is longer than half the body length (70% of head and body length), is long, fluffy and reaches the ground when in a standing position. Their pupil
Pupil
The pupil is a hole located in the center of the iris of the eye that allows light to enter the retina. It appears black because most of the light entering the pupil is absorbed by the tissues inside the eye. In humans the pupil is round, but other species, such as some cats, have slit pupils. In...

s are oval and vertically oriented. Nictitating membrane
Nictitating membrane
The nictitating membrane is a transparent or translucent third eyelid present in some animals that can be drawn across the eye for protection and to moisten it while maintaining visibility. Some reptiles, birds, and sharks have a full nictitating membrane; in many mammals, there is a small...

s are present, but move only when the eyes are closed. The forepaws have five digits, while the hind feet have only four and lack dewclaw
Dewclaw
A dewclaw is a vestigial digit on the foot of many mammals, birds, and reptiles . It commonly grows high on the leg so that in digitigrade species, when the animal is standing, it does not make contact with the ground...

s. They are very agile, being capable of jumping over 2 metre high fences and swim well. Vixens have three pairs of teats, though vixens with 7, 9 or 10 pairs are not uncommon. The testes of males are smaller than those of Arctic fox
Arctic fox
The arctic fox , also known as the white fox, polar fox or snow fox, is a small fox native to Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and is common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. The Greek word alopex, means a fox and Vulpes is the Latin version...

es.

Their skull
Skull
The skull is a bony structure in the head of many animals that supports the structures of the face and forms a cavity for the brain.The skull is composed of two parts: the cranium and the mandible. A skull without a mandible is only a cranium. Animals that have skulls are called craniates...

s are fairly narrow and elongated with small braincases. Their canine teeth are relatively long. Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

 of the skull is more pronounced than in corsac fox
Corsac Fox
The corsac fox , also known as the steppe fox, is a medium sized Asiatic fox species found throughout the central steppes of Asia. It is sometimes referred to as the "sand fox", but this terminology is confusing because two other species, the Tibetan sand fox and Rüppell's fox are also sometimes...

es, with female red foxes tending to have smaller than average skulls than males, with wider nasal regions and hard palates, as well as having larger canines. Their skulls are distinguished from those of dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

s by their narrower muzzles, less crowded premolar
Premolar
The premolar teeth or bicuspids are transitional teeth located between the canine and molar teeth. In humans, there are two premolars per quadrant, making eight premolars total in the mouth. They have at least two cusps. Premolars can be considered as a 'transitional tooth' during chewing, or...

s, more slender canine teeth and their concave rather than convex profiles.

Dimensions

Red foxes are the largest species of the genus Vulpes. However, relative to dimensions, red foxes are much lighter than similarly sized dogs. Their limb bones, for example, weigh 30% less per unit area of bone than expected for similarly sized dogs. They display significant individual, sexual, age and geographical variation in size. On average, adults measure 35–50 cm (13.8–19.7 in) high at the shoulder and 45 to 90 cm (17.7 to 35.4 in) in body length with tails measuring 30 inch. The ears measure 7.7–12.5 cm (3–5 in) and the hind feet 12–18.5 cm (5–7 in). They weigh 2.2 to 14 kg (4.9 to 30.9 lb), with vixens typically weighing 15–20% less than males. Adult dog-foxes have skulls measuring 129–167 mm, while those of vixens measure 128–159 mm. The forefoot print measures 60 mm in length and 45 mm in width, while the hind foot print measures 55 mm long and 38 mm wide. They trot at a speed of 6–13 km/h, and have a maximum running speed of 50 km/h. They have a stride of 25–35 cm when walking at a normal pace. North American red foxes are generally lightly built, with comparatively long bodies for their mass and have a high degree of sexual dimorphism. British red foxes are heavily built, but short, while continental European red foxes are closer to the general average among red fox populations. The largest red fox on record in Great Britain was a 12 kg (26.5 lbs), four foot long male, killed in Maidstone
Maidstone
Maidstone is the county town of Kent, England, south-east of London. The River Medway runs through the centre of the town linking Maidstone to Rochester and the Thames Estuary. Historically, the river was a source and route for much of the town's trade. Maidstone was the centre of the agricultural...

, Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 in early 2011.

Fur

The winter fur is dense, soft, silky and relatively long. In northern foxes, the fur is very long, dense and fluffy, but is shorter, sparser and coarser in southern forms. Among northern foxes, the North American varieties generally have the silkiest guard hair
Guard hair
Guard hairs are the longest, coarsest hairs in a mammal's coat, forming the topcoat . They taper to a point and protect the undercoat from the elements. They are often water repellent and stick out above the rest of the coat...

s, while most Eurasian red foxes have coarser fur. There are three colour morphs; red, silver/black and cross (see Mutations). In the typical red morph, their coats are generally bright reddish-rusty with yellowish tints. A stripe of weak, diffuse patterns of many brown-reddish-chestnut hairs occurs along the spine. Two additional stripes pass down the shoulder blades which, together with the spinal stripe, form a cross. The lower back is often a mottled silvery colour. The flanks are lighter coloured than the back, while the chin, lower lips, throat and front of the chest are white. The remaining lower surface of the body is dark, brown or reddish. During lactation, the belly fur of vixens may turn brick red. The upper parts of the limbs are rusty-reddish, while the paws are black. The frontal part of the face and upper neck is bright brownish-rusty red, while the upper lips are white. The backs of the ears are black or brownish-reddish, while the inner surface is whitish. The top of the tail is brownish-reddish, but lighter in colour than the back and flanks. The underside of the tail is pale grey with a straw coloured tint. A black spot, the location of the supracaudal gland, is usually present at the base of the tail. The tip of the tail is white.

Mutations

Atypical colourations in red foxes typically represent stages toward full melanism
Melanism
Melanism is an undue development of dark-colored pigment in the skin or its appendages, and the opposite of albinism. It is also the medical term for black jaundice.The word is deduced from the , meaning black pigment....

. Colour mutations occur most frequently in cold regions.
Colour variant Image Description
Red The typical colouration. See Fur
Grey The rump and spine is brown or grey with light yellowish bands on the guard hairs. The cross on the shoulders is either brown, rusty brown or browinish reddish. The limbs are brown
Cross
Cross fox (animal)
The cross fox is a partially melanistic colour variant of the red fox which has a long dark stripe running down its back, intersecting another stripe to form a cross over the shoulders...

The fur has a darker colouration to the former. The rump and lower back are dark brown or dark grey, with varying degrees of silver on the guard hairs. The cross on the shoulders is black or brown, sometimes with light silvery fur. The feet and head are brown
Blackish-brown The melanistic form of the Eurasian red fox. Has blackish-brown or black skin with a light-brownish tint. The skin usually has an admixture of various amounts of silver. Reddish hairs are either completely absent or in small quantities
Silver
Silver fox (animal)
The Silver Fox is a melanistic form of red fox. Silver foxes display a great deal of pelt variation: some are completely black, save for the white tail tip, while others are bluish-grey, and others may have a cinereous colour on the sides...

The melanistic form of the North American red fox, but introduced to the Old World by the fur trade. Characterised by pure black colour with a variable admixture of silver (covering 25–100% of the skin area)
Platinum Distinguished from the silver morph by its late pale, almost silver-white fur with a bluish cast
Amber
Samson Distinguished by its woolly pelt which lacks guard hairs

Senses

Red foxes have binocular vision
Binocular vision
Binocular vision is vision in which both eyes are used together. The word binocular comes from two Latin roots, bini for double, and oculus for eye. Having two eyes confers at least four advantages over having one. First, it gives a creature a spare eye in case one is damaged. Second, it gives a...

, but their sight reacts mainly to movement. Their auditory perception is acute, being able to hear black grouse
Black Grouse
The Black Grouse or Blackgame is a large bird in the grouse family. It is a sedentary species, breeding across northern Eurasia in moorland and bog areas near to woodland, mostly boreal...

s changing roosts at 600 paces, the flight of crow
Crow
Crows form the genus Corvus in the family Corvidae. Ranging in size from the relatively small pigeon-size jackdaws to the Common Raven of the Holarctic region and Thick-billed Raven of the highlands of Ethiopia, the 40 or so members of this genus occur on all temperate continents and several...

s at 1/4-1/2 km and the squeaking of mice at about 100 metres. They are capable of locating sounds to within one degree at 700–3,000 Hz, though less accurately at higher frequencies. Their sense of smell is good, but weaker than that of specialized dogs.

Scent glands

Red foxes have a pair of anal sacs lined by sebaceous glands, both of which open through a single duct. The anal sacs act as fermentation chambers in which aerobic and anaerobic bacteria convert sebum into odorous compounds, including aliphatic acids. The oval-shaped caudal gland is 25 mm long and 13 mm wide, and reportedly smells of violet
Violet (plant)
Viola is a genus of flowering plants in the violet family Violaceae, with around 400–500 species distributed around the world. Most species are found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere; however, viola species are also found in widely divergent areas such as Hawaii, Australasia, and the Andes in...

s. The presence of foot glands is equivocal. The interdigital cavities are deep, with a reddish tinge and smell strongly. Sebaceous glands are present on the angle of the jaw and mandible.

Behaviour

Social and territorial behaviour

Red foxes either establish stable home ranges within particular areas or are itinerant with no fixed abode. They use their urine
Urine
Urine is a typically sterile liquid by-product of the body that is secreted by the kidneys through a process called urination and excreted through the urethra. Cellular metabolism generates numerous by-products, many rich in nitrogen, that require elimination from the bloodstream...

 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
Kin selection
Kin selection refers to apparent strategies in evolution that favor the reproductive success of an organism's relatives, even at a cost to the organism's own survival and reproduction. Charles Darwin was the first to discuss the concept of group/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.

Reproduction and development

Red foxes reproduce once a year in spring. Two months prior to estrus (typically December), 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
Sperm
The term sperm is derived from the Greek word sperma and refers to the male reproductive cells. In the types of sexual reproduction known as anisogamy and oogamy, there is a marked difference in the size of the gametes with the smaller one being termed the "male" or sperm cell...

 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
Gestation period
For mammals the gestation period is the time in which a fetus develops, beginning with fertilization and ending at birth. The duration of this period varies between species.-Duration:...

 lasts 49–58 days. Though largely monogamous, DNA evidence from one population indicated large levels of polygyny
Polygyny
Polygyny is a form of marriage in which a man has two or more wives at the same time. In countries where the practice is illegal, the man is referred to as a bigamist or a polygamist...

, incest
Incest
Incest is sexual intercourse between close relatives that is usually illegal in the jurisdiction where it takes place and/or is conventionally considered a taboo. The term may apply to sexual activities between: individuals of close "blood relationship"; members of the same household; step...

 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
Thermoregulation
Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different...

. 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
Lactation
Lactation describes the secretion of milk from the mammary glands and the period of time that a mother lactates to feed her young. The process occurs in all female mammals, however it predates mammals. In humans the process of feeding milk is called breastfeeding or nursing...

 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
Longevity
The word "longevity" is sometimes used as a synonym for "life expectancy" in demography or known as "long life", especially when it concerns someone or something lasting longer than expected ....

 can be as long as 14 years, though in the wild they typically do not survive past 1.5 years of age.

Sleep

The average sleep time of a captive red fox is said to be 9.8 hours per day.

Denning behaviour

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 (40–45°) 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.

Body language

Red fox body language consists of movements of the ears, tail and postures, with their body markings emphasising certain gestures. Postures can be divided into aggressive/dominant and fearful/submissive categories. Some postures may blend the two together.

Inquisitive foxes will rotate and flick their ears whilst sniffing. Playful individuals will perk their ears and rise on their hind legs. Male foxes courting females, or after successfully evicting intruders, will turn their ears outwardly, and raise their tails in a horizontal position, with the tips raised upward. When afraid, red foxes grin in submission, arching their backs, curving their bodies, crouching their legs and lashing their tails back and forth with their ears pointing backwards and pressed against their skulls. When merely expressing submission to a dominant animal, the posture is similar, but without arching the back or curving the body. Submissive foxes will approach dominant animals in a low posture, so that their muzzles reach up in greeting. When two evenly matched foxes confront each other over food, they approach each other sideways and push against each others flanks, betraying a mixture of fear and aggression through lashing tails and arched backs without crouching and pulling their ears back without flattening them against their skulls. When launching an assertive attack, red foxes approach directly rather than sideways, with their tails aloft and their ears rotated sideways. During such fights, red foxes will stand on each other's upper bodies with their forelegs, using open mouthed threats. Such fights typically only occur among juveniles or adults of the same sex.

Vocalisations

Red foxes have a wide vocal range, and produce different sounds spanning five octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s, which grade into each other. Recent analyses identify 12 different sounds produced by adults and 8 by kits. The majority of sounds can be divided into "contact" and "interaction" calls. The former vary according to the distance between individuals, while the latter vary according to the level of aggression.
  • Contact calls: The most commonly heard contact call is a 3–5 syllable barking "wow wow wow" sound, which is often made by two foxes approaching one another. This call is most frequently heard from December to February (when they can be confused with the territorial calls of tawny owl
    Tawny Owl
    The Tawny Owl or Brown Owl is a stocky, medium-sized owl commonly found in woodlands across much of Eurasia. Its underparts are pale with dark streaks, and the upperparts are either brown or grey. Several of the eleven recognised subspecies have both variants...

    s). The "wow wow wow" call varies according to individual; captive foxes have been recorded to answer pre-recorded calls of their pen-mates, but not those of strangers. Kits begin emitting the "wow wow wow" call at the age of 19 days, when craving attention. When red foxes draw close together, they emit trisyllabic greeting warbles similar to the clucking of chickens. Adults greet their kits with gruff huffing noises.

  • Interaction calls: When greeting one another, red foxes emit high pitched whines, particularly submissive animals. A submissive fox approached by a dominant animal will emit an ululating siren-like shriek. During aggressive encounters with conspecifics, they emit a throaty rattling sound, similar to a ratchet
    Ratchet (instrument)
    A ratchet, also called a noisemaker , is an orchestral musical instrument played by percussionists. Operating on the principle of the ratchet device, a gearwheel and a stiff board is mounted on a handle, which can be freely rotated...

    , called "gekkering". Gekkering occurs mostly during the courting season from rival males or vixens rejecting advances.


Another call which does not fit into the two categories is a long, drawn out, monosyllabic "waaaaah" sound. As it is commonly heard during the breeding season, it thought to be emitted by vixens summoning males. When danger is detected, foxes emit a monosyllabic bark. At close quarters, it is a muffled cough, while at long distances it is sharper. Kits make warbling whimpers when nursing, these calls being especially loud when they are dissatisfied.

Diet, hunting and feeding behaviour

Red foxes are omnivore
Omnivore
Omnivores are species that eat both plants and animals as their primary food source...

s 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 vole
Vole
A vole is a small rodent resembling a mouse but with a stouter body, a shorter hairy tail, a slightly rounder head, smaller ears and eyes, and differently formed molars . There are approximately 155 species of voles. They are sometimes known as meadow mice or field mice in North America...

s, mice
Mouse
A mouse is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse . It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles...

, ground squirrel
Ground squirrel
The ground squirrels are members of the squirrel family of rodents which generally live on or in the ground, rather than trees. The term is most often used for the medium-sized ground squirrels, as the larger ones are more commonly known as marmots or prairie dogs, while the smaller and less...

s, hamster
Hamster
Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. The subfamily contains about 25 species, classified in six or seven genera....

s, gerbil
Gerbil
A gerbil is a small mammal of the order Rodentia. Once known simply as "desert rats", the gerbil subfamily includes about 110 species of African, Indian, and Asian rodents, including sand rats and jirds, all of which are adapted to arid habitats...

s, woodchucks, pocket gopher
Pocket gopher
The pocket gophers are burrowing rodents of the family Geomyidae. These are the "true" gophers, though several ground squirrels of the family Sciuridae are often called gophers as well...

s and deer mice. Secondary prey species include bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s (with passeriformes, galliformes
Galliformes
Galliformes are an order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding domestic or game bird, containing turkey, grouse, chicken, New and Old World Quail, ptarmigan, partridge, pheasant, and the Cracidae. Common names are gamefowl or gamebirds, landfowl, gallinaceous birds or galliforms...

 and waterfowl
Waterfowl
Waterfowl are certain wildfowl of the order Anseriformes, especially members of the family Anatidae, which includes ducks, geese, and swans....

 predominating), leporids, porcupine
Porcupine
Porcupines are rodents with a coat of sharp spines, or quills, that defend or camouflage them from predators. They are indigenous to the Americas, southern Asia, and Africa. Porcupines are the third largest of the rodents, behind the capybara and the beaver. Most porcupines are about long, with...

s, raccoon
Raccoon
Procyon is a genus of nocturnal mammals, comprising three species commonly known as raccoons, in the family Procyonidae. The most familiar species, the common raccoon , is often known simply as "the" raccoon, as the two other raccoon species in the genus are native only to the tropics and are...

s, opossums, reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s, insects, other invertebrate
Invertebrate
An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. The group includes 97% of all animal species – all animals except those in the chordate subphylum Vertebrata .Invertebrates form a paraphyletic group...

s and flotsam (marine mammals, fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 and echinoderm
Echinoderm
Echinoderms are a phylum of marine animals. Echinoderms are found at every ocean depth, from the intertidal zone to the abyssal zone....

s). On very rare occasions, they may attack young or small ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s. 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
Raspberries
Raspberry may refer to:* Raspberry, various fruit-bearing plants in the genus Rubus, especially two commercially grown species, the red-fruited Rubus idaeus and the black-fruited Rubus occidentalis...

, cherries, persimmon
Persimmon
A persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family . The word Diospyros means "the fire of Zeus" in ancient Greek. As a tree, it is a perennial plant...

s, mulberries, apple
Apple
The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family . It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans. Apple grow on small, deciduous trees that blossom in the spring...

s, plum
Plum
A plum or gage is a stone fruit tree in the genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus. The subgenus is distinguished from other subgenera in the shoots having a terminal bud and solitary side buds , the flowers in groups of one to five together on short stems, and the fruit having a groove running down one...

s, grapes and acorn
Acorn
The acorn, or oak nut, is the nut of the oaks and their close relatives . It usually contains a single seed , enclosed in a tough, leathery shell, and borne in a cup-shaped cupule. Acorns vary from 1–6 cm long and 0.8–4 cm broad...

s. Other plant material includes grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

es, sedges
Cyperaceae
Cyperaceae are a family of monocotyledonous graminoid flowering plants known as sedges, which superficially resemble grasses or rushes. The family is large, with some 5,500 species described in about 109 genera. These species are widely distributed, with the centers of diversity for the group...

 and tuber
Tuber
Tubers are various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season and they are a means of asexual reproduction...

s.

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
Surplus killing
Surplus killing is the behavior predators exhibit when they kill more prey than they can immediately use. They may partially consume, cache, or abandon intact prey...

; during one breeding season, four foxes were recorded to have killed circa 200 black-headed gull
Black-headed Gull
The Black-headed Gull is a small gull which breeds in much of Europe and Asia, and also in coastal eastern Canada. Most of the population is migratory, wintering further south, but some birds in the milder westernmost areas of Europe are resident...

s 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
Taste
Taste is one of the traditional five senses. It refers to the ability to detect the flavor of substances such as food, certain minerals, and poisons, etc....

 of mole
Mole (animal)
Moles are small cylindrical mammals adapted to a subterranean lifestyle. They have velvety fur; tiny or invisible ears and eyes; and short, powerful limbs with large paws oriented for digging. The term is especially and most properly used for the true moles, those of the Talpidae family in the...

s, but will nonetheless catch them alive and present them to their kits as playthings.

Enemies and competitors

Red foxes typically dominate other fox species. Arctic fox
Arctic fox
The arctic fox , also known as the white fox, polar fox or snow fox, is a small fox native to Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and is common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. The Greek word alopex, means a fox and Vulpes is the Latin version...

es generally escape competition from red foxes by living farther north, where food is too scarce to support the larger-bodied red species. Although the red species' northern limit is linked to the availability of food, the Arctic species' southern range is limited by the presence of the former. Red and Arctic foxes were both introduced to almost every island from the Aleutian Islands to the Alexander Archipelago
Alexander Archipelago
The Alexander Archipelago is a long archipelago, or group of islands, of North America off the southeastern coast of Alaska. It contains about 1,100 islands, which are the tops of the submerged coastal mountains that rise steeply from the Pacific Ocean. Deep channels and fjords separate the...

 during the 1830s–1930s by fur companies. The red foxes invariably displaced the Arctic foxes, with one male red fox having been reported to have killed off all resident Arctic foxes on a small island in 1866. Where they are sympatric, Arctic foxes may also escape competition by feeding on lemming
Lemming
Lemmings are small rodents, usually found in or near the Arctic, in tundra biomes. They are subniveal animals, and together with voles and muskrats, they make up the subfamily Arvicolinae , which forms part of the largest mammal radiation by far, the superfamily Muroidea, which also includes rats,...

s and flotsam, rather than voles, as favoured by red foxes. Both species will kill each others kits, given the opportunity. Red foxes are serious competitors of corsac fox
Corsac Fox
The corsac fox , also known as the steppe fox, is a medium sized Asiatic fox species found throughout the central steppes of Asia. It is sometimes referred to as the "sand fox", but this terminology is confusing because two other species, the Tibetan sand fox and Rüppell's fox are also sometimes...

es, as they hunt the same prey all year. The red species is also stronger, is better adapted to hunting in snow deeper than 10 cm and is more effective in hunting and caching medium to large-sized rodents. Corsac foxes seem to only outcompete red foxes in semi-desert and steppe areas. In Israel, Blanford's fox
Blanford's Fox
Blanford's fox , is a small fox found in certain regions of the Middle East.-Other names:It is also known as the Afghan fox, royal fox, Corsac, dog fox, hoary fox, steppe fox, black fox, king fox, cliff fox or Baluchistan fox...

es escape competition with red foxes by restricting themselves to rocky cliffs and actively avoiding the open plains inhabited by red foxes. Red foxes dominate kit
Kit Fox
The kit fox is a fox species of North America. Its range is primarily in the southwestern United States and northern and central Mexico. Some mammalogists classify it as conspecific with the swift fox, V. velox, but molecular systematics imply that the two species are distinct.-Range:The...

 and swift fox
Swift Fox
The swift fox is a small light orange-tan fox around the size of a domestic cat found in the western grasslands of North America, such as Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. It also lives in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada, where it was previously extirpated...

es. Kit foxes usually avoid competition with their larger cousins by living in more arid environments, though red foxes have been increasing in ranges formerly occupied by kit foxes due to human induced environmental changes. Red foxes will kill both species, and compete for food and den sites. Grey foxes are exceptional, as they dominate red foxes wherever their ranges meet. Historically, interactions between the two species were rare, as grey foxes favoured heavily wooded or semiarid habitats as opposed to the open and mesic ones preferred by red foxes. However, interactions have become more frequent due to deforestation allowing red foxes to colonise grey fox inhabited areas.

Wolves
Gray Wolf
The gray wolf , also known as the wolf, is the largest extant wild member of the Canidae family...

 may kill and eat red foxes in disputes over carcasses. In areas in North America where red fox and coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

 populations are sympatric, fox territories tend to be located outside of coyote territories. The principal cause of this separation is believed to be active avoidance of coyotes by the foxes. Interactions between the two species vary in nature, ranging from active antagonism, to indifference. The majority of aggressive encounters are initiated by coyotes, and there are few reports of red foxes acting aggressively toward coyotes except when attacked or when their pups were approached. Foxes and coyotes have sometimes been seen feeding together. In Israel, red foxes share their habitat with golden jackal
Golden Jackal
The golden jackal , also known as the common jackal, Asiatic jackal, thos or gold-wolf is a Canid of the genus Canis indigenous to north and northeastern Africa, southeastern and central Europe , Asia Minor, the Middle East and southeast Asia...

s. Where their ranges meet, the two canids compete due to near identical diets. Foxes ignore jackal scents or tracks in their territories, and avoid close physical proximity with jackals themselves. Studies show that in areas where jackals become very abundant, the population of foxes decreases significantly, apparently because of competitive exclusion.

Red foxes dominate raccoon dog
Raccoon Dog
The raccoon dog , also known as the magnut or tanuki, is a canid indigenous to east Asia. It is the only extant species in the genus Nyctereutes...

s, sometimes killing their cubs or biting adults to death. Cases are known of foxes killing raccoon dogs entering their dens. Both species compete for mouse-like prey. This competition reaches a peak during early spring, when food is scarce. In Tartaria
Tartaria
Săliştea , known as Cioara until 1965, is a commune located in Alba county, Romania. The old name of Cioara is still widely used, especially by local residents.It is composed of four villages: Mărgineni, Săliştea, Săliştea-Deal and Tărtăria....

, red fox predation accounted for 11.1% of deaths among 54 raccoon dogs, and amounted to 14.3% of 186 raccoon dog deaths in north-western Russia.

They may kill small mustelids like weasel
Weasel
Weasels are mammals forming the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. They are small, active predators, long and slender with short legs....

s, stone martens, pine marten
Pine Marten
The European Pine Marten , known most commonly as the pine marten in Anglophone Europe, and less commonly also known as Pineten, baum marten, or sweet marten, is an animal native to Northern Europe belonging to the mustelid family, which also includes mink, otter, badger, wolverine and weasel. It...

s, stoat
Stoat
The stoat , also known as the ermine or short-tailed weasel, is a species of Mustelid native to Eurasia and North America, distinguished from the least weasel by its larger size and longer tail with a prominent black tip...

s, kolonok
Siberian Weasel
The Siberian weasel , also known as the Kolonok, is a medium-sized species of weasel native to Asia. It is classed as Least Concern for extinction by the IUCN, due to its wide distribution and presumably large numbers....

s, polecats
Weasel
Weasels are mammals forming the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family. They are small, active predators, long and slender with short legs....

 and young sable
Sable
The sable is a species of marten which inhabits forest environments, primarily in Russia from the Ural Mountains throughout Siberia, in northern Mongolia and China and on Hokkaidō in Japan. Its range in the wild originally extended through European Russia to Poland and Scandinavia...

s. Eurasian badger
Eurasian Badger
The European Badger is a species of badger of the genus Meles, native to almost all of Europe. It is classed as Least Concern for extinction by the IUCN, due to its wide distribution and large population....

s may live alongside red foxes in isolated sections of large burrows. It is possible that the two species tolerate each other out of commensalism
Commensalism
In ecology, commensalism is a class of relationship between two organisms where one organism benefits but the other is neutral...

 ; foxes provide badgers with food scraps, while badgers maintain the shared burrow's cleanliness. However, cases are known of badgers driving vixens from their dens and destroying their litters without eating them. Wolverine
Wolverine
The wolverine, pronounced , Gulo gulo , also referred to as glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae . It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids...

s may kill red foxes, often whilst the latter are sleeping or near carrion. Foxes in turn may kill, unattended young wolverines.

Red foxes may compete with striped hyena
Striped Hyena
The Striped Hyena is a species of true hyena native to North and East Africa, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Middle and Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent...

s on large carcasses. Red foxes may give way to hyenas on unopened carcasses, as the latter's stronger jaws can easily tear open flesh which is too tough for foxes. Foxes may harass hyenas, using their smaller size and greater speed to avoid the hyena's attacks. Sometimes, foxes seem to deliberately torment hyenas even when there is no food at stake. Some foxes may mistime their attacks, and are killed. Fox remains are often found in hyena dens, and hyenas may steal foxes from traps.

In Eurasia, they may be preyed upon by leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

s, caracal
Caracal
The caracal is a fiercely territorial medium-sized cat ranging over Western Asia, South Asia and Africa.The word caracal comes from the Turkish word "karakulak", meaning "black ear". In North India and Pakistan, the caracal is locally known as syahgosh or shyahgosh, which is a Persian term...

s and Eurasian lynx
Eurasian Lynx
The Eurasian lynx is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, South Asia and East Asia. It is also known as the European lynx, common lynx, the northern lynx, and the Siberian or Russian lynx...

es. The lynxes chase red foxes into deep snow, where their longer legs and larger paws give them an advantage over foxes, especially when the depth of the snow exceeds one metre. In the Velikoluki district in Russia, red foxes are absent or are seen only occasionally where lynxes establish permanent territories. However, researchers consider lynxes to represent considerably less danger to red foxes than wolves do. North American felid predators of red foxes include cougars, Canadian lynxes and bobcat
Bobcat
The bobcat is a North American mammal of the cat family Felidae, appearing during the Irvingtonian stage of around 1.8 million years ago . With twelve recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including most of the continental United States...

s.

Range

Red foxes are wide ranging animals, whose range covers nearly 70 million km². They are distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

 to North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

, and the Asiatic steppes. They are absent in Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

, the Arctic islands, some parts of Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, and in extreme deserts.

Introduction to Sardinia

The origin of the Sardinian ichnusae subspecies is uncertain, as it is absent from Pleistocene deposits in their current homeland. It is possible it originated during the Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 following its introduction to the island by humans. It is likely then that Sardinian fox populations stem from repeated introductions of animals from different localities in the Mediterranean. This latter theory may explain the subspecies' phenotypic diversity.

Introduction to Australia

English red foxes were introduced to Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 by British expatriates seeking to introduce foxhunting to the colonies. The first introduction occurred in 1845 near Keilor, Victoria
Keilor, Victoria
Keilor is a suburb in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 18 km north-west from Melbourne's central business district. Its Local Government Area are the Cities of Brimbank and Hume...

. The introduction of a further 2 male foxes was reported in the Sydney Echo in 1855. One male and two females were released in 1864 by the Melbourne Hunt Club. These early introductions did not become fully established. Australia's modern fox population stems from two subsequent shipments released in Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

. The founder populations were a pair released 20 km from Ballarat in 1871 and several more on Point Cook. By 1880, the latter population spread up to Corio Bay
Corio Bay
Corio Bay is one of numerous bays in the southwest corner of Australia's Port Phillip, and is the bay on which abuts the City of Geelong. The nearby suburb of Corio takes its name from Corio Bay.-Name:...

 and linked up with the Ballarat foxes. In less than a decade, the foxes had colonised 13,000 km² of Victoria, and by 1893, the first fox bounties were established. They established themselves in southern Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

 by 1911. Australian red foxes now occur principally throughout mainland Australia, save for northern Queensland and the Northern Territory
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

. The spread of red foxes across southern Australia coincided with declines in the distribution of several medium-sized ground-dwelling mammals, including brush-tailed bettong
Woylie
The Woylie , also known as the Brush-tailed Bettong, is a small marsupial that belongs to the genus Bettongia. It is endemic to Australia...

s, burrowing bettong
Boodie
The Boodie , also known as the Burrowing Bettong, is a small marsupial. It is a fascinating example of the effects of introduced animals on Australian fauna and ecosystems. Once the most common macropodiform mammal on the whole continent, the Boodie now only lives on off-lying islands and in a...

s, rufous bettongs, Tasmanian bettong
Eastern Bettong
The Eastern Bettong , also known as the Southern Bettong and Tasmanian Bettong, is a bettong whose natural range includes south-eastern Australia and the eastern part of Tasmania. Following the introduction of the red fox, it became extinct on mainland Australia around 1890.- Diet and Behaviour...

s, bilby
Bilby
Bilbies are desert-dwelling marsupial omnivores; they are members of the order Peramelemorphia. Before European colonisation of Australia, there were two species. One became extinct in the 1950s; the other survives but remains endangered....

s, numbat
Numbat
The numbat , also known as the banded anteater, or walpurti, is a marsupial found in Western Australia. Its diet consists almost exclusively of termites. Once widespread across southern Australia, the range is now restricted to several small colonies and it is listed as an endangered species...

s, bridled nailtail wallaby
Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby
Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby refers to Onychogalea fraenata, an endangered species of marsupial. It is a small wallaby found in three isolated areas in Queensland, Australia, and whose population is declining...

s and quokka
Quokka
The Quokka , the only member of the genus Setonix, is a small macropod about the size of a domestic cat. Like other marsupials in the macropod family , the Quokka is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal...

s. Most of these species are now limited to islands where red foxes are absent or rare. Semi-arboreal species affected by fox predation include brush-tailed
Common Brushtail Possum
The Common Brushtail Possum is a nocturnal, semi-arboreal marsupial of the family Phalangeridae, it is native to Australia, and the largest of the possums.Like most possums, the Common Brushtail is nocturnal...

 and western ringtail possum
Western Ringtail Possum
The Western Ringtail Possum or Ngwayir is a possum found in Western Australia, regarded as a subspecies of Common Ringtail Possum, or as a separate species.-Description:...

s. Australian foxes are usually controlled with baits
Bait (luring substance)
Bait is any substance used to attract prey, e.g. in a mousetrap.-In Australia:Baiting in Australia refers to specific campaigns to control foxes, wild dogs and dingos by poisoning in areas where they are a problem...

 or the animals shot with the aid of spotlighting
Spotlighting
Spotlighting or Lamping is a method of hunting nocturnal animals using off-road vehicles and high-powered lights, spotlights, lamps or flashlights, that makes special use of the eyeshine revealed by many animal species. A further important aspect is that many animals Spotlighting or Lamping (also...

. The eyeshine signature (from the tapetum lucidum
Tapetum lucidum
The tapetum lucidum is a layer of tissue in the eye of many vertebrate animals....

 in the eye) of foxes, and body shape and silhouette
Silhouette
A silhouette is the image of a person, an object or scene consisting of the outline and a basically featureless interior, with the silhouetted object usually being black. Although the art form has been popular since the mid-18th century, the term “silhouette” was seldom used until the early decades...

 are used to identify them. Success has also been found with the reintroduction of the dingo
Dingo
The Australian Dingo or Warrigal is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with humans from southeast Asia thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to...

, which has been shown to control the number of wild foxes, and a consequential increase in native fauna.

Diseases and parasites

Red foxes are the most important rabies
Rabies
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis in warm-blooded animals. It is zoonotic , most commonly by a bite from an infected animal. For a human, rabies is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms...

 vector in Europe. In London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, arthritis
Arthritis
Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints....

 is not uncommon in foxes, being particularly frequent in the spine. Foxes may be infected with leptospirosis
Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is caused by infection with bacteria of the genus Leptospira, and affects humans as well as other mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.The...

 and tularemia
Tularemia
Tularemia is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. A Gram-negative, nonmotile coccobacillus, the bacterium has several subspecies with varying degrees of virulence. The most important of those is F...

, though they are not overly susceptible to the latter. They may also fall ill from listerellosis and spirochetosis, as well as acting as vectors in spreading erysipelas
Erysipelas
Erysipelas is an acute streptococcus bacterial infection of the deep epidermis with lymphatic spread.-Risk factors:...

, brucellosis
Brucellosis
Brucellosis, also called Bang's disease, Crimean fever, Gibraltar fever, Malta fever, Maltese fever, Mediterranean fever, rock fever, or undulant fever, is a highly contagious zoonosis caused by ingestion of unsterilized milk or meat from infected animals or close contact with their secretions...

 and tick-born encephalitis
Encephalitis
Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain. Encephalitis with meningitis is known as meningoencephalitis. Symptoms include headache, fever, confusion, drowsiness, and fatigue...

. A mysterious fatal disease near Lake Sartlan in the Novosibirsk Oblast
Novosibirsk Oblast
Novosibirsk Oblast is a federal subject of Russia located in southwestern Siberia. Its administrative and economic center is the city of Novosibirsk. Population: -Overview:...

 was noted among local red foxes, but the cause was undetermined. The possibility was considered that it was caused by an acute form of encephalomyelitis
Encephalomyelitis
Encephalomyelitis is a general term for inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, describing a number of disorders:* Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis or postinfectious encephalomyelitis, a demyelinating disease of the brain and spinal cord, possibly triggered by vaccination or viral...

, which was first observed in captive bred silver foxes. Individual cases of foxes infected with Bacillus pestis are known.

Red foxes are not overly infested with flea
Flea
Flea is the common name for insects of the order Siphonaptera which are wingless insects with mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood...

s. Species like Spilopsyllus cuniculi are probably only caught from the fox's prey species, while others like Archaeopsylla e. erinacei are caught whilst travelling. Fleas which actively feed on red foxes include Pulex irritans, Ctenocephalides canis and Paraceras melis. Tick
Tick
Ticks are small arachnids in the order Ixodida, along with mites, constitute the subclass Acarina. Ticks are ectoparasites , living by hematophagy on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians...

s such as Ixodes ricinus
Ixodes ricinus
Ixodes ricinus, the castor bean tick, is a chiefly European species of hard-bodied tick. It may reach a length of when engorged with a blood meal, and can transmit both bacterial and viral pathogens such as the causative agents of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis.-Description:In common...

 and I. hexagonus are not uncommon in foxes, and are typically found on nursing vixens and kits still in their earths. The louse
Louse
Lice is the common name for over 3,000 species of wingless insects of the order Phthiraptera; three of which are classified as human disease agents...

 Trichodectes vulpis specifically targets foxes, but is found infrequently. The mite
Mite
Mites, along with ticks, are small arthropods belonging to the subclass Acari and the class Arachnida. The scientific discipline devoted to the study of ticks and mites is called acarology.-Diversity and systematics:...

 Sarcoptes scabiei
Sarcoptes scabiei
Sarcoptes scabiei or the itch mite is a parasitic arthropod that burrows into skin and causes scabies. Animals affected include not only human but also wild and domesticated dogs and cats in which it is one cause of mange...

 is the most important cause of mange
Mange
Mange is the common name for a class of persistent contagious skin diseases caused by parasitic mites. Since mites also infect plants, birds, and reptiles, the term "mange," suggesting poor condition of the hairy coat due to the infection, is sometimes reserved only for pathological...

 in red foxes. It causes extensive hair loss, starting from the base of the tail and hindfeet, then the rump before moving on to the rest of the body. In the final stages of the condition, foxes can lose most of their fur, 50% of their body weight and may gnaw at infected extremities. In the epizootic phase of the disease, it usually takes foxes 4 months to die after infection. Other endoparasites include Demodex folliculorum
Demodex folliculorum
Demodex folliculorum is a species of face mite. D. folliculorum is one of the parasitic face mites that occur on people . Demodex derives from the Greek roots, demos- fat, and dex- worm. When large numbers of D...

, Notoderes, Otodectes cynotis (which is frequently found in the ear canal
Ear canal
The ear canal , is a tube running from the outer ear to the middle ear. The human ear canal extends from the pinna to the eardrum and is about 35 mm in length and 5 to 10 mm in diameter....

), Linguatula serrata
Linguatula serrata
Linguatula serrata is a cosmopolitan zoonotic parasite, belonging to the Pentastomida, also known as tongue worms. They are wormlike parasites of the respiratory systems of vertebrates. They live in the nasopharyngeal region of mammals. Cats, dogs, foxes, and other carnivores are normal hosts of...

 (which infects the nasal passages) and ringworms.

Up to 60 helminth species are known to infect foxes in fur farms, while 20 are known in the wild. Several coccidia
Coccidia
Coccidia is a subclass of microscopic, spore-forming, single-celled obligate parasites belonging to the apicomplexan class Conoidasida. Coccidian parasites infect the intestinal tracts of animals, and are the largest group of apicomplexan protozoa....

n species of the genera
Genera
Genera is a commercial operating system and development environment for Lisp machines developed by Symbolics. It is essentially a fork of an earlier operating system originating on the MIT AI Lab's Lisp machines which Symbolics had used in common with LMI and Texas Instruments...

 Isospora
Isospora
Isospora is a genus of internal parasites classified under Coccidia.It is responsible for the condition isosporiasis.At least 248 species have been described in this genus, but most of them are little studied and it is doubtful whether all should be recognized as distinct species...

 and Eimeria
Eimeria
Eimeria is a genus of Apicomplexan parasites that includes various species responsible for the poultry disease coccidiosis. The genus is named for the German zoologist Theodor Eimer...

 are also known to infect them. The most common nematode
Nematode
The nematodes or roundworms are the most diverse phylum of pseudocoelomates, and one of the most diverse of all animals. Nematode species are very difficult to distinguish; over 28,000 have been described, of which over 16,000 are parasitic. It has been estimated that the total number of nematode...

 species found in fox guts are Toxocara canis
Toxocara canis
Toxocara canis is worldwide distributed helminth parasite of dogs and other canids. T. canis are gonochorists, adult worms measure from 9 to 18 cm, are yellow-white in color, and occur in the intestine of the definitive host. In adult dogs, the infection is usually asymptomatic. By the...

 and Uncinaria stenocephala
Uncinaria stenocephala
Uncinaria stenocephala is one of the most common nematode parasites targeting dogs, cats, and foxes as well as humans.Common name: The Northern hookworm of dogs.-Life cycle:...

, Capillaria aerophila
Capillaria aerophila
Capillaria aerophila is a nematode parasite found in the respiratory tract of foxes, dogs, and various other carnivorous mammals. A few cases of human infestation have also been reported. Though it is sometimes called a "lungworm", this term usually refers to other species of nematodes. ...

 and Crenosoma vulpis, the latter two infect their lungs. Capillaria plica
Capillaria plica
Capillaria plica is a parasitic nematode which is most often found in the urinary bladder, and occasionally in the kidneys, of dogs and foxes. It has also been found in the domestic cat, and various wild mammals...

 infect the fox's bladder. Trichinella spiralis
Trichinella spiralis
Trichinella spiralis is a nematode parasite, occurring in rats, pigs, bears and humans, and is responsible for the disease trichinosis. It is sometimes referred to as the "pork worm" due to it being found commonly in undercooked pork products...

 rarely affects them. The most common cestode species in foxes are Taenia spiralis and T. pisiformis
Taenia pisiformis
Taenia pisiformis is a tapeworm. It is related to Taenia solium, the pork tapeworm, and to Taenia saginata, the beef tapeworm.The adult may reach up to 200 cm in length.The definite host is represented by carnivores such as the dog or the cat....

. Others include Echinococcus granulosus
Echinococcus granulosus
Echinococcus granulosus, also called the Hydatid worm or Hyper Tape-worm, is a cyclophyllid cestode that parasitizes the small intestine of canids as an adult, but which has important intermediate hosts such as livestock and humans, where it causes hydatid disease...

 and E. multilocularis
Echinococcus multilocularis
Echinococcus multilocularis is a cyclophyllid tapeworm that, along with some other members of the Echinococcus genus , produces the disease known as echinococcosis in certain terrestrial mammals, including wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes, domestic dogs and humans. Unlike E. granulosus, E...

. Eleven trematode species infect red foxes.

In folklore and mythology

Red foxes feature prominently in the folklore and mythology of human cultures with which they are sympatric. In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, the Teumessian fox
Teumessian fox
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. It was said that it had been sent by the gods to prey upon the children of Thebes as a punishment for some national crime...

 or Cadmean vixen, was a gigantic fox that was destined never to be caught. The fox was one of the children of Echidna
Echidna (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Echidna was half woman half snake, known as the "Mother of All Monsters" because most of the monsters in Greek myth were mothered by her...

.

In European folklore, the figure of Reynard the Fox symbolises trickery and deceit. He originally appeared (then under the name of "Reinardus") as a secondary character in the 1150 poem Ysengrimus
Ysengrimus
Ysengrimus is a Latin fabliau and mock epic, an anthropomorphic series of fables written in 1148 or 1149, possibly by the poet Nivardus. Its chief character is Ysengrimus the Wolf, and it describes how his various schemes are overcome by the trickster figure Reinardus the Fox.-The author:Little is...

. He reappeared in 1175 in Pierre Saint Cloud's Le Roman de Renart, and made his debut in England in Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer , known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey...

'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
Kumiho
The gumiho is a creature that appears in the oral tales and legends of Korea,, and are akin to European fairies. According to those tales, a fox that lives a thousand years turns into a gumiho, like its Japanese and Chinese counterparts...

 as they are known in Korea. In Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology is a system of beliefs that embraces Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as agriculturally based folk religion. The Shinto pantheon comprises innumerable kami...

, the kitsune
Kitsune
is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume...

 are fox-like spirits possessing magical
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

 abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form
Human disguise
A human disguise is a concept in computer science, fantasy, folklore, mythology, religion, literary tradition, iconography and science fiction whereby non-human beings such as aliens, angels, demons, gods, monsters, robots, Satan or shapeshifters are disguised to seem human.Stories have depicted...

. 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
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, and applied the word "fox" to false prophets (Ezekiel
Book of Ezekiel
The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah and preceding the Book of the Twelve....

 13:4) and the hypocrisy of Herod Antipas
Herod Antipas
Herod Antipater , known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st-century AD ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch...

 (Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 13:32).

The cunning Fox is commonly found in Native American mythology
Native American mythology
Native American mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Native American religion from a mythographical perspective. Native American belief systems include many sacred narratives. Such spiritual stories are deeply based in Nature and are rich with the symbolism of seasons,...

, where it is portrayed as an almost constant companion to coyote
Coyote (mythology)
Coyote is a mythological character common to many Native American cultures, based on the coyote animal. This character is usually male and is generally anthropomorphic although he may have some coyote-like physical features such as fur, pointed ears, yellow eyes, a tail and claws...

. Fox, however, is a deceitful companion who often steals Coyote's food. In the Achomawi
Achomawi
The Achomawi are one of eleven bands of the Pit River tribe of Native Americans who lived in northeastern California, USA....

 creation myth, Fox and Coyote are the co-creators of the world, who leave just before the arrival of humans. The Yurok tribe
Yurok tribe
The Yurok, whose name means "downriver people" in the neighboring Karuk language, are Native Americans who live in northwestern California near the Klamath River and Pacific coast...

 believed that Fox, in anger, captured the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, and tied him to a hill, causing him to burn a great hole in the ground. An Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

 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
Menominee
Some placenames use other spellings, see also Menomonee and Menomonie.The Menominee are a nation of Native Americans living in Wisconsin. The Menominee, along with the Ho-Chunk, are the only tribes that are indigenous to what is now Wisconsin...

 story tells of how Fox is an untrustworthy friend to the Wolf.

Hunting

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
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 horseman in the process of spearing a fox. Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

, 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
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 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
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 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
Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Sir Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, 2nd Earl of Cambridge, Earl of Rutland, Earl of Cork, Duke of Aumale KG was a member of the English royal family who died at the Battle of Agincourt....

 assisted the climb of foxes as more prestigious quarries in his The Master of Game
The Master of Game
The Master of Game is a medieval book on hunting written by Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, between 1406 and 1413, of which 27 manuscripts survive. It is considered to be the oldest English-language book on hunting...

. By the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, fox hunting became a traditional sport of the nobility. After the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 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 first being the Charlton Hunt Club in 1737). 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.
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 (2000); Germany 600,000 (2000–2001); Austria 58,000 (2000–2001); Sweden 58,000 (1999–2000); Finland 56,000 (2000–2001); Denmark 50,000 (1976–1977); Switzerland 34,832 (2001); Norway 17,000 (2000–2001); Saskatchewan (Canada) 2,000 (2000–2001); Nova Scotia (Canada) 491 (2000–2001); New Mexico (USA) 69 (1999–2000).

Fur use

Because of their abundance, red foxes are among the most important furbearing animals harvested by the fur trade
Fur trade
The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of world market for in the early modern period furs of boreal, polar and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valued...

. Their pelts are used for trimming
Trim (sewing)
Trim or trimming in clothing and home decorating is applied ornament, such as gimp, passementerie, ribbon, ruffles, or, as a verb, to apply such ornament....

s, scarf
Scarf
A scarf is a piece of fabric worn around the neck, or near the head or around the waist for warmth, cleanliness, fashion or for religious reasons. They can come in a variety of different colours.-History:...

s, muff
Muff (handwarmer)
A muff is a fashion accessory for outdoors usually made of a cylinder of fur or fabric with both ends open for keeping the hands warm. It was introduced to women's fashion in the 16th century and was popular with both men and women in the 17th and 18th centuries. By the early 20th century muffs...

s, jacket
Jacket
A jacket is a hip- or waist-length garment for the upper body. A jacket typically has sleeves, and fastens in the front. A jacket is generally lighter, tighter-fitting, and less insulating than a coat, which is outerwear...

s and coats. They are principally used as trimming for both cloth coats and fur garments, including evening wraps. The pelts of silver-morph foxes are popular as cape
Cape
Cape can be used to describe any sleeveless outer garment, such as a poncho, but usually it is a long garment that covers only the back half of the wearer, fastening around the neck. They were common in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood in the chaperon, and have had periodic...

s, while cross foxes are mostly used for scarfs and very rarely trimming. The number of sold fox scarfs exceeds the total number of scarfs made from other furbearers. However, this amount is overshadowed by the total number of fox pelts used for trimming purposes. The silver morphs are the most valued by furriers, followed by the cross and red morphs respectively. In the early 20th century, over 1,000 American fox skins were imported to Britain annually, while 500,000 were exported annually from Germany and Russia. The total worldwide trade of wild red foxes in 1985–86 was 1,543,995 pelts. Foxes amounted to 45% of US wild-caught pelts worth $50 million.

North American red foxes, particularly those of northern Alaska, are the most valued for their fur, as they have guard hairs of a very silky texture which, after dressing, allow the wearer unrestricted mobility. Red foxes living in southern Alaska's coastal areas and the Aleutian Islands are an exception, as they have extremely coarse pelts which rarely exceed one third of the price of their northern Alaskan cousins. Most European peltries have very coarse textured fur compared to North American varieties. The only exceptions are the Nordic and Far Eastern Russian peltries, but they are still inferior to North American peltries in terms of silkiness.

Livestock, game and pet predation

Red foxes are implicated in the destruction of game and song bird
Song Bird
Song Bird is a 1977 album by Deniece Williams. The album went to number 23 and number 66 on the Black and Pop album Charts respectively. The single Baby, Baby My Love's All For You reached number 13 and number 32 on the Black and UK singles....

s, hares, rabbit
Rabbit
Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world...

s, muskrat
Muskrat
The muskrat , the only species in genus Ondatra, is a medium-sized semi-aquatic rodent native to North America, and introduced in parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. The muskrat is found in wetlands and is a very successful animal over a wide range of climates and habitats...

s and young ungulates, particularly in preserve
Game preservation
Game preservation is maintaining a stock of game to be hunted legally. It includes:*Preventing poaching*Preventing losses due to attack by predators.*Encouraging breeding, and sometimes captive breeding for release.-Game preservation in Britain:...

s, reserve
Game reserve
A game reserve is an area of land set aside for maintenance of wildlife for tourism or hunting purposes. Many game reserves are located in Africa. Most are open to the public, and tourists commonly take sightseeing safaris or hunt wild game....

s, and hunting farms where ground nesting birds are protected and raised, as well as in poultry farm
Poultry farming
Poultry farming is the raising of domesticated birds such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese, for the purpose of farming meat or eggs for food. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world's poultry meat, and 68 percent of eggs are produced in ways that are described as...

s. Foxes may on occasions prey on lambs. Usually, lambs targeted by foxes tend to be physically weakened specimens, but not invariably. Lambs belonging to small breeds, such as blackface
Scottish Blackface
The Scottish Blackface is the most common breed of domestic sheep in the United Kingdom. This tough and adaptable breed is often found in the more exposed locations, such as the Scottish Highlands or roaming on the moors of Dartmoor...

, are more vulnerable than larger breeds such as merino
Merino
The Merino is an economically influential breed of sheep prized for its wool. Merinos are regarded as having some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep...

. Twins may be more vulnerable to foxes than singlets, as ewes cannot effectively defend both simultaneously. Crossbreeding small, upland ewes with larger, lowland rams can cause difficult and prolonged labour for ewes due to the heaviness of the resulting offspring, thus making the lambs more at risk to fox predation. Lambs born from gimmers (ewes breeding for the first time) are more often killed by foxes than those of experienced mothers, who stick closer to their young. It is often the case that the extent of game and livestock predation by red foxes is exaggerated, since the degree of fox damage is usually determined by the remains of food found at their burrows. In Australia, foxes may prey on 10–30% of lambs, costing Australian sheep breeders more than A$100 million annually. In areas where foxes are a problem, a Coordinated Fox Control Project is held in conjunction with the local Rural Lands Protection Board (RLPB) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to facilitate a neighbourhood bait
Bait (luring substance)
Bait is any substance used to attract prey, e.g. in a mousetrap.-In Australia:Baiting in Australia refers to specific campaigns to control foxes, wild dogs and dingos by poisoning in areas where they are a problem...

ing campaign.

Red foxes may prey on domestic rabbit
Domestic rabbit
A domestic rabbit, or more commonly known as simply the rabbit, is any of the several varieties of European rabbit that have been domesticated....

s and guinea pig
Guinea pig
The guinea pig , also called the cavy, is a species of rodent belonging to the family Caviidae and the genus Cavia. Despite their common name, these animals are not in the pig family, nor are they from Guinea...

s if they are kept in open runs or are allowed to range freely in gardens. This problem is usually averted by housing them in robust hutches and runs. Urban foxes frequently encounter cat
Cat
The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

s and may feed alongside them. In physical confrontations, the cats usually have the upper hand. Authenticated cases of foxes killing cats usually involve kittens. Although most foxes do not prey on cats, some may do so, and may treat them more as competitors rather than food.

Attacks on humans

  • On 26 June 2002, a fox attacked a 14-week-old boy in Dartford, Kent, UK, grabbing the child's head and attempting to drag him outside before being chased off by the boy's parents.
  • In June 2010, an urban fox entered a family home in London
    London
    London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

    , UK, and attacked twin baby girls, who were sleeping in their cots.
  • In October 2010, it was alleged in the press that a fox bit off the nose and 2½ fingers of a comatose 37-year-old man in Inveresk
    Inveresk
    Inveresk is a civil parish and was formerly a village that now forms the southern part of Musselburgh. It is situated on slightly elevated ground at the south of Musselburgh in East Lothian, Scotland...

    , East Lothian
    East Lothian
    East Lothian is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and a lieutenancy Area. It borders the City of Edinburgh, Scottish Borders and Midlothian. Its administrative centre is Haddington, although its largest town is Musselburgh....

    , UK.

Taming and domestication

In their unmodified wild state, red foxes are generally unsuitable as pets. Many supposedly abandoned kits are adopted by well-meaning people during the spring period, though it is unlikely that vixens would abandon their young. Actual orphans are rare, and the ones that are adopted are likely kits that simply strayed from their den site. Kits require almost constant supervision; when still suckling, they require milk at four-hour intervals day and night. Once weaned, they may become destructive to leather objects, furniture and electric cables. Though generally friendly toward people when young, captive red foxes become fearful of humans, save for their handlers, once they reach 10 weeks of age. They maintain their wild counterpart's strong instinct of concealment, and may pose a threat to domestic birds, even when well fed. Although suspicious of strangers, they can form bonds with cats and dogs, even ones bred for fox hunting. Practical uses for tame foxes are few, though they can be encouraged to kill rats and mice in granaries. Tame foxes were once used to draw ducks close to hunting blinds.

A strain of truly domesticated red foxes was introduced by Russian geneticist Dmitry Konstantinovich Belyaev who, over a 40 year period, bred several generations of silver morph foxes on fur farms, selecting only those individuals that showed the least fear of humans. Eventually, Belyaev's team selected only those that showed the most positive response to humans, thus resulting in a population of foxes whose behavior and appearance was significantly changed. After about ten generations of controlled breeding, these foxes no longer showed any fear of humans, and often wagged their tails and licked their human caretakers to show affection. These behavioural changes were accompanied by physical alterations, which included piebald
Piebald
A piebald or pied animal is one that has a spotting pattern of large unpigmented, usually white, areas of hair, feathers, or scales and normally pigmented patches, generally black. The colour of the animal's skin underneath its coat is also pigmented under the dark patches and unpigmented under...

 coats, floppy ears in pups, and curled tails, similar to traits that distinguish domestic dogs from wolves. During the post-Soviet economic crisis of the 1990s, the project ran into funding constraints and was forced to reduce the number of animals from 700 to 100 and began funding the ongoing efforts in part through sales of the strain as pets in addition to looking into other ways to support the project.

Urban foxes

Throughout the twentieth century foxes have started moving into cities. In 2006 it was estimated that there were 10,000 foxes in London. City-dwelling foxes may have the potential to consistently grow larger than their rural counterparts, as a result of abundant scraps and a relative dearth of predators. While foxes will scavenge successfully in the city (and the foxes tend to eat anything that the humans eat) some urban residents will deliberately leave food out for the animals, finding them endearing. Some researchers speculate that the urban fox is evolving into a different species from its countryside cousin, as it has a different diet of mainly man-made food, different survival skills (for example, the ability to cross roads), different places to live (under buildings rather than trees), a lack of their natural fear of humans, and a larger size.

Further reading


External links

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