Animal of the Issue: Red Fox

Kayla Sutter

SC Contributing Writer

The Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, is a cunning little creature known for its pointy ears and bushy tail.

With the uncommon ability to adapt to almost any environment: forests, deserts, mountains, and grasslands and even human dominated environments like farms and communities, the red fox is found all over the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the forests of Pennsylvania.

Foxes are lone hunters that will consume anything they may come across. They are known to be opportunists at best.

Being omnivorous they hunt down small rodents, rabbits, and birds, but will also consume fish, frogs, vegetables, and fruits.

If living in a human habitat, thee foxes will help themselves to human garbage, consuming leftover food scraps.

This mammal lives an average 2-5 years in the wild. The red fox’s body and head can grow to be 18 to 34 inches, while the tail can reach lengths of 12 to 22 inches. The weight of this fox can amount to 24 pounds!

The name “red fox” derives from the reddish/orange fur that covers its body. Shades of red foxes can stray from a peachy orange to a deep, dark red.

The most noticeable characteristics of the red fox are the bushy, white tipped tail, black tipped ears, and black feet. (Not to be confused with their distant cousin, the grey fox, which sport black tipped tails).

Part of the Canidae family, the fox is technically relatives with jackals, dogs, and wolves. Unlike its relatives, which roam in packs, the Red Fox is a solitary animal.

Despite the scientific relation, foxes have many characteristics in common with cats. Foxes are most active at night, similar to cats. They have whiskers around their nose, spines on their tongue that gives a velcro-like texture and retractable claws.

They have an elegant tread that resembles that of a cat’s, and also hunt by stalking and leaping onto prey.

Foxes use their 5-inch ears to help them hunt. They hear extremely well, and are able to pick up on low-frequency sounds.

Even though foxes like to roam alone, quietly through the night, they are known to be extremely friendly, and curious.

Foxes meet in the winter to mate. The female, also called a vixen, pairs up with a male, and has a liter of 2-12 pups. Both parents care for the pups until the end of summer, when they are about seven months old and expected to survive on their own.

The fox appears in old folklore, more than once. The Japanese made the”kitsune,” which is the Japanese word for fox, the focus of many tales.

Kitsune were thought to have magical abilities that increased with age. These kitsune had tails to match their wisdom and abilities.

The more tails the kitsune had—ranging from one to nine—the more powerful, older, and wiser it was thought to be. (This specific folklore is heavily portrayed in the famous Japanese manga/anime Naruto).

Kitsune were also thought to transform into women and other misleading forms, causing them to be thought of as mischievous, malevolent tricksters.

Quick Facts:

  • A group of foxes is called a skulk or leash.
  • Foxes dig dens underground to protect their families.
  • A pregnant vixen only carries her pups for 53 days.
  • What does the fox say? They can voice about 28 different sounds to communicate with each other- to be exact.
  • Foxes can run approximately 30 miles per hour.