Red fox Vulpes

History

The red fox is a member of the Order Carnivore and Family Canidee. Originating about 45 million years ago in the Eocene period, the first foxes were long-bodied and short-limbed, much like their ancestors. They have become adapted for fast pursuit of prey over open grasslands, so they generally have lithe bodies, long bushy tads, long legs and digitigrade four-toed feet, with non-retractable claws.

The modern fox is a widespread animal, being found throughout Europe (but absent from Iceland) and also in much of Asia, North America, Northern Africa and introduced to Australia.

Key features

The fox measures up to 110 cm, including the tail. It can be up to 40 cm high to the shoulder.
It weighs around 6.5 kg and is reddish brown in coloration with blacks and usually a white tail tip. Many have a white bib on the throat.
Darker varieties are sometimes called a cross fox. Distribution
It is thought to be the most widespread and abundant wild carnivore in the world and seems to have almost limitless adaptability to European habitats. In the countryside, the fox can be found in scrub, woodland, farmland, moors, mountains and even sand dunes. In towns and cities, it is most common in the wealthier parts of the suburbs with detached houses and large gardens.

Mating

The fox tends to be a semi-solitary animal, but family groups of a male (dog) and several females (vixens) are also common.
Mating takes place from December to February and the two sexes can be locked together for up to 90 minutes after copulation. At this time of year, the animals cause many complaints due to their barking and screaming mating calls.
Fox cubs are born in March-May after a gestation period of 52-53 days. The average litter size is 5. Cubs are about 100 g when born and grow quickly, putting on 50 g a day from 4-10 weeks. Weaning begins around the sixth week but they will eat solid food from 4 weeks.
Young cubs may remain with the vixen until they are 3 or 4 months of age.
At weaning, they resemble miniature fluffy taxes but they are virtually indistinguishable from adults in the field after 6 months.

Diet

Both wild and urban foxes have a varied diet, eating everything from earthworms, eggs and beetles to rodents, rabbits and birds. They are also keen scavengers, feeding on windfall fruits, bird table seeds, sheeps’ afterbirths and discarded fast food leftovers to name but a few. A fox will eat 500g or more a day and this can increase when cubs are present.

Habitats

Home ranges vary enormously, from 20 km plus in the Scottish Highlands to 2 km in rural cities. As a rule, there is usually one family per km on farmland. Foxes can run at up to 60 km/h.

Lifespan

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