The Red Fox: All About this Species

22 December, 2020
This canine is related to the wolf and the dog. Although it's skiddish and nocturnal by nature, it has a great capacity to adapt to very different habitats.

In fables and fairy tales, the red fox always appears as a cunning and intelligent character. This is how we perceive this animal that populates forests throughout the world. It’s an animal that’s both admired and hunted at the same time.

Characteristics of the red fox

The red fox, or common fox, is a canid related not only to wolves, but also to dogs. It’s of a medium size, measuring some 27 inches from the head to the beginning of the tail. As for the tail, it can measure some 15 to 20 inches long.

Despite its name, the red fox isn’t actually red. Rather, it’s orange, and can also appear in many other colors, such as brown, gray, or white. In its most common coloration, it has black ear tips and legs, while the chest and belly are white.

Physically, its large ears stand out. Compared to other canids, it has a long and thin nose, much narrower at the tip than at the base. And of course, we can’t forget to mention its characteristic leafy tail, which can reach half the size of its body.

A red fox in the woods.

Unlike many other mammals, their pupils are elongated and vertical rather than circular–like those of a cat. It’s a nocturnal animal. However, when there’s little light, it doesn’t have great vision and depends mainly on its senses of smell and hearing.

Behavior of the red fox

As folk tales tell us, the red fox is an intelligent animal with a great adaptive capacity. Its natural habitat is the forest, but it’s also capable of living in areas populated by humans. This makes getting food is much easier.

They’re crepuscular animals with a tendency to be nocturnal. That is, they’re animals that have their period of greatest activity from the hours after sunset and prefer to develop their life at night. In urbanized areas where there’s artificial light, it’s very common to find them out late at night.

They’re fast, agile animals that live alone or in pairs. They’re territorial beings who don’t like to live in groups, so they mark the limits of their territory with a characteristic smell. They can live in pairs or as a family when pups are present. However, once they reach adulthood, this is rare.

A mother fox guarding her den with 3 babies.

During the day they rest in burrows, and they may have more than one in their territory. In some cases, they dig these burrows themselves. However, in other cases, they take advantage of natural holes or ledges or even snatch burrows from other animals, such as badgers or rabbits.

The red fox lacks the muscles necessary for making many of the facial movements that are essential in order to communicate with other canids. Therefore, they’ve developed other methods. For example, they can emit a wide variety of sounds. They can also communicate through their tails and through the smells they leave on their territory.

Red fox habitat

The main habitat of the red fox is the forest, although they can adapt and live on open land as well. In recent decades, they’ve also been appearing in urban areas. In fact, it’s common to see them on the streets of rural villages or in the urbanizations that surround big cities.

The red fox is spread over a large part of the planet, in North America, all over Europe, and a large part of Asia. There’s a small population in North Africa and it was also artificially introduced in Australia, where it’s causing problems to the native fauna.

Diet of the red fox

This canid is an omnivorous animal, that is, it can ingest all types of food. It’s an opportunistic animal that will take advantage of the food it finds and hunt whatever animals there are in its environment.

A red fox walking in the snow.

In most of its habitats, the red fox is an active hunter that feeds on small mammals such as mice or shrews. It can also hunt insects or small birds.

However, it’s capable of attacking nests in order to eat the eggs inside. If it lives in a coastal area, it’ll go to the beaches to look for seafood and mollusks and even to do some fishing. If it’s in a humid area, it can hunt amphibians like frogs or lizards.

This animal has such a great capacity to adapt that it’s capable of feeding on almost anything it finds. In areas where it lives with humans, it often scavenges and takes advantage of food scraps discarded by people.

The red fox is a curious, intelligent animal that, thanks to its ability to adapt, has managed to survive in places where other canids have disappeared. In addition, it has spread throughout almost the entire planet and thrives in hostile environments where it’s been introduced artificially.