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Ten Facts About Red Foxes (Vulpes fulva)
- The red fur and white-tipped, bushy tails of red foxes can be spotted throughout the United States, except in the southwest and parts of Texas and Alaska. They live in a variety of habitats, including forest, grassland, mountain and desert. Red foxes have also adapted to places where humans live, like suburban areas and even parts of cities.
- Foxes are about three feet long, and weigh between 7 and 15 pounds. They are in the canine family, along with dogs, coyotes and wolves. Like dogs, foxes have tough toe pads and hard nails. This makes them good runners.
- Foxes eat whatever they can find. In the summer, they eat insects like grasshoppers and beetles, as well as apples, berries and grains. In the winter, foxes hunt small animals like mice, rabbits and birds.
- Foxes are nocturnal and they don’t see very well, but they do have good hearing. They can hear the underground digging, gnawing, and rustling of small mammals. When the fox hears those sounds, it digs into the soil or snow to catch the animal.
- Except during mating season, red foxes live alone. When the fox sleeps, it finds a place on the open ground and wraps its bushy tail around its nose and feet. Foxes can sleep that way even when they are covered in snow.
- Male and female foxes come together to mate in late January or February. They establish a den, which is usually an old burrow made by another animal, like a woodchuck. The foxes make it bigger and add more tunnels in case they have to make a quick escape. Usually, the mother fox – known as a vixen – will clean out extra dens in case something happens to the first one.
- The mother fox gives birth to a litter of 2 to 12 kits (baby foxes). At birth, kits are brown or gray, but they do have the white tail tip. In a month, the red coat grows in. Both parents take care of them. When the kits are about seven months old, they are ready to strike out on their own.
- From 1650 to 1750, red foxes were brought over from England and released in some states by people who enjoyed hunting them with hounds. Because of that, red foxes in some parts of the United States are a mix of native red foxes and English ones.
- Foxes used to be heavily hunted and trapped for their fur pelts. Today, humans and automobiles are their biggest enemies. Foxes also get many of the same diseases that dogs do, such as rabies, mange, and distemper. They live for three or four years.
- Not being big or powerful animals, foxes have had to depend on their speed and intelligence to escape from their enemies. Because of this they have the reputation for being sly.
Ten Great Places to See Red Foxes on National Wildlife Refuges
- Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (Seneca Falls, New York, 315-568-5987,
http://www.fws.gov/r5mnwr) The best characteristic for identifying the red fox is the white- tipped tail. They are commonly observed near the office, Visitor Center field and along the Wildlife Drive.
- Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge (Tok, Alaska, 907-883-5312, http://Tetlin.fws.gov) Most of the visitors who come to Tetlin Refuge to view and photograph wildlife, including red foxes, do so along the Alaska Highway. Many stop at one or more of the seven interpretative pullouts or stay at one of the two lakeshore campgrounds.
- Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (Mayville, Wisconsin, 920-387-2658, http://www.fws.gov/midwest/horicon) At over 32,000 acres in size, Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. The red foxes that live here share their home with 227 species of birds.
- Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge (Lacombe, Lousiana, 985-882-2000, http://www.fws.gov/atchafalaya/) The refuge is encompassed within nearly one-half million acres of hardwood swamps, lakes and bayous. Along with red foxes, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, gray and fox squirrels, eastern cottontail, swamp rabbit, coyote, striped skunk, opossum and a small population of black bears live here.
- Quivera National Wildlife Refuge (Stafford, Kansas, 620-486-2393, http://quivira.fws.gov) Quivira National Wildlife Refuge was recently named one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas. The refuge has two large salt marshes, and both are excellent places to look for wildlife. Mammals, like red foxes, are often seen lurking about during the heat of the afternoon.
- Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Vian, Oklahoma,918-773-5252,
http://southwest.fws.gov/refuges/oklahoma/sequoy.html) Fertile bottomlands at the confluence of the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers make this east-central Oklahoma refuge a terrific wildlife viewing destination.
- Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (Jefferson, Oregon, 503-588-2701,
http://www.fws.gov/willamettevalley/ankeny) Many different types of crops are grown on the refuge to provide winter browse for wintering waterfowl, but other species benefit from the bushy edges and hedgerows left around the farm fields. Red foxes feed in the fields but seek protection from predators among the thick bushes around the edges.
- White River National Wildlife Refuge (St. Charles, Arizona, 870-282-8200,
http://www.fws.gov/whiteriver) The refuge's fertile forests and three hundred lakes are interlaced with streams, sloughs, and bayous. The result is a haven for a myriad of native wildlife, including red foxes.
- Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (Columbia, North Carolina, 252-796-3004,
http://www.fws.gov/pocosinlakes/) The southeastern shrub bog – known as pocosin – is the dominant habitat at this refuge. It is characterized by a very dense growth of mostly broadleaf evergreen shrubs with scattered pond pine. Over 40 species of mammals, including red foxes, live here.
- Audubon National Wildlife Refuge Coleharbor, North Dakota, 701-442-5474,
http://audubon.fws.gov). A 7.5-mile auto tour route begins near the visitor center and winds along the scenic south shoreline of Lake Audubon, offering a chance to see red foxes as well as other animal species. A 1-mile long, self-guided trail begins near the entrance of the auto tour route..