Red Fox

Tags: Boreal Forest

red fox

Did you know that foxes are part of the dog family known as canids? Wolves and coyotes are also part of the canid family.

Where do foxes live? Red Foxes are the most common species of foxes and are found throughout most of the US and Canada. They live in woodlands and also farm land. Common Gray Foxes are also found in the Border Country and most of the eastern US.

Click on photo to enlarge

Did you know that adult foxes usually live alone? Adult red foxes usually live alone except during the mating season in January and February and when raising young. Instead of sleeping in a den, an adult fox usually curls up with its fluffy tail over its nose and feet to protect itself from the cold. In the winter, sometimes the snow will cover them in a blanket which insulates them from the wind and cold weather.

What do red foxes look like? Red foxes range in color from red to gray but most are a reddish brown color. They have a white belly, chin, and throat and a white tipped tail. They weigh between 7 1/2 pounds to 15 pounds. Red foxes are between 35-41 inches long and their long tails are about 13-17 inches long. These foxes are usually around 15 inches tall. Red foxes have long legs for running, sharp teeth and strong jaws for chewing meat. They also have narrower snouts than other canids which allows them to snoop between rocks and bushes to find food. Red foxes are known for being very clever. There are many tales of foxes who managed to out smart the dogs and the hunters by confusing the dogs and making them lose their scent.

When are young foxes born? Young foxes are known as kits and they are born between March and May. Red foxes have between 1-10 kits in each litter. Kits are born in dens that their mother’s make before they are born. A mother fox may use the same den year after year.

What do kits eat? After one month, the kits feed on regurgitated food that their mothers or other females bring back for them. They also start coming up out of the den to play after about one month. The mother starts bringing live prey for the young foxes to enjoy when they begin to grow up. Eventually the kits learn how to hunt by watching their parents.

Click on photo to enlarge

What do foxes eat? Red foxes have a varied diet. They do need to eat meat for proper nourishment but they also eat what is available. In the summer, red foxes will eat corn, berries, apples, grasses, acorns, and cherries. During the winter they feed on small mammals such as mice, squirrels, and rabbits. They even eat insects! Beetles, caterpillars, crayfish, and crickets make up about a quarter of all of their food. A red fox will hunt and save some of its food in special hiding places called caches. The fox will remember where it hid the food and go back at a later date to find the food.

How do red foxes hunt? These clever animals have an interesting way of hunting. They have sensitive ears that can detect the low frequency sounds of small animals moving underground or under the snow. When they hear those sounds, they frantically dig up the soil or snow to find the small prey. When red foxes are going after larger prey such as rabbits, they stalk the rabbits and then wait to attack when the rabbit begins to run away.

How long do kits stay with their parents? After 7 months, kits are ready to venture out on their own. The females usually stay close to their birth place but males are known to go as far as 150 miles away!

What are some signs of red fox activity? A good clue to look out for are fox dens which are usually built in old woodchuck or badger dens. Look out for the dens in rock piles, hollow logs, or in stream banks. Red fox droppings are cylindrical, small, and narrow. Their tracks are very similar to a large cat except they have 4 claws that show up in the print. The front prints are just over 2 inches long.

Click on photo to enlarge

Did you know that red foxes were introduced to the US in the 1700s? Europeans brought the fox over on ships because they enjoyed hunting them. These foxes bred with native foxes to produce the red fox that we know today. People still go on fox hunts by horse back.

Good news for red foxes! At one time red foxes were trapped extensively for their soft, colorful fur. Since people have become more aware of the fur trade, there is no longer as much demand for fox skins. Red fox numbers are increasing and their territory is also expanding!

Sources Ahlstrom, M.E. 1983. The Foxes. Crestwood House, New York. Arnold, C. 1996. Fox. Morrow Junior Books, New York. Whitaker, J.O.Jr. National Audobon Society field guide to North American mammals. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York.










16 thoughts on “Red Fox”

  1. Last week my husband saw two small red/brown animals with long fluffy tails run across our lawn (we live on the edge of town on a golf course – Fox Run). Today while reading I looked up and out our south window and saw them heading east into a wooded area on the course. I watched them play in the trees for a few minutes and then scamper off across the course. I will be watching for them hoping to capture them in picture. They are amazingly beautiful and fast.

  2. We have two red fox kits in our back yard. They’re using the outdoor fireplace crawl space as their den. They appear to be about 2 months old. Mama fox has not returned for 3 days now. The kits appear to be waiting for her to return. There is no male parent. Question: How long does a single mama fox leave the den if she has to hunt? Should we be concerned that these young are orphaned?

  3. I have recently discovered we have a fox den underneath the deck of our pool ( in the past we had woodchucks there). As much as I love watching the kits play I’m concerned for our family dog (a small pug), especially learning that the kits will stay in the den until 7 months. Would you recommend having the fox family relocated or will they relocate themselves since we are back there quite often in the spring/summer time?

    Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

  4. Spotted a young red fox kit not far from my home. He,she was playing in the road and then jumped into a culvert. The next day around 4:30 PM I checked out the same culvert to find nothing. As I was running back up the same road he came running to the culvert. He let me take some photos before disapearing into the culvert. I’m so afraid he is going to be hit:(. I know I should let nature take it’s course. But he is so darn cute. I have been blessed with seeing Eagles in our back yard and a pair of fisher cats which is another story. I live in a small Hamlet song the Hudson. Schodack Landing, NY

  5. we have several beautiful foxes in our area one being bright red in color and the other seeming darker almost brown I believe they were born near here they don’t run far away from us or not scared and in our backyard we have huge piles of cut down trees leaves tunnels all kinds of great places for animals to bear there babys. last night the dark brown one hung around myself my husband and our dog didn’t run far from the area beautiful coat and color no mange and nothing just wanted to look at us never ran far just hid behind a tree and watched us from there it was quite amazing I love foxes and the fact that I have a Chihuahua is not a good thing but we do walk her on a leash we have two cats they are indoors and I am an animal lover to the max that box was gorgeous and I can’t wait to grab a picture now that I know he’s here. is it possible for a red ones and darker colored ones to come from the same litter? or can they change color like tha. .going from red to a darker brown. Having seen both of them I think they are two different foxes. one seems smaller than the other

  6. We have a family of foxes that come evreynight , it’s so nice to see the babies playing ,there are 4 cub, one is very brave and is always the first to come even sometimes on its own, they are beautiful animals, I do put small amounts of food out but not much as I don’t want them to lose their hunting abilities, we also had a big problem with rats on the garden but since we have had the foxes we have seen no more rats so a big thankyou to them for that,

  7. We too thought that the kits were so cute — until this year when we got our first batch of chickens – well sell certified naturally grown eggs and whole chicken, so they are on pasture, their pens are moved daily to fresh grass – overnight we went from 50 three week old chicks to 30. You could see where the fox had dug under the pen to get inside and there wasn’t a sign of the birds any where. From what I have read she was taking the live chicks back to her young kits to practice their hunting skills.

  8. Mary O'Donoghue

    I have a red fox visit my garden every night I feed him burgers, cooked chicken, ham,left over meats,sausages,stews, he takes away the food to eat or hide it he also loves cheese. I hope he keeps coming back as I grown very fond of him.
    He has been coming here now for about 3 months we live in the south of Ireland

  9. We have watched a family of foxes with 2 dens. Mama had 4 kits all very black. She would nurse them standing up. They gradually turned to the fox colors. Very playful all day long. Papa was around a long time letting they around him as he stood on top of the den. Now they are gone. It is May. I will miss them.


    Red and Gray Fox are actually declining in Ohio, due to no-till farming, as farmer uses powerful herbicides that affect the entire food chains genetic profile. Coyotes are a problem also, but a majority of the harm is chemicals which kill field mice, which are over 70% of their diet.I live in Farm country, and the decline has been dramatic in nature, and trappers were never responsible for decline.

Comments are closed.