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Get to Know Our Native Red Fox
In folktales and legends, foxes are clever, crafty animals that are often portrayed as knowing more than the other woodland creatures. More than likely, it’s their patient hunting skills and quiet ways that have given them this reputation.
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is native not only to Washington state, but to the entire United States and well beyond. In fact, of all the canids, the red fox has the greatest reach around the globe. Red foxes have been found as far north as the arctic circle and as far south as northern Africa and South America. They’re considered native to all of North America.
Foxes came to North America from Europe during the Wisconsonian glacial period, more than 10,000 years ago, when the Bering Land Bridge allowed humans and mammals to travel from Siberia to the new world.
Sadly, foxes were introduced to Australia, where they’re now considered invasive species because of the harm they’ve done to local wildlife populations.
Diet and Lifestyle
Foxes mostly live on a diet of small rodents like mice and rats, though they’ll also eat birds, reptiles, invertebrates, frogs, and the occasional bit of plant matter.
They live in family groups that are made up of a breeding pair and some of their grown-up children (anywhere from 1 to 8), who help with raising the new fox kits. Only the dominant pair will breed each year. Foxes are generally solitary hunters.
A fox’s big, bushy tail is one of its more distinctive physical traits. Like a cat, a fox will use its tail for balance. It’s also used as a warm blanket in cold wather and as a signal flag for communicating with other foxes.
Foxes generally mate during the winter months, and their babies (typically 4-6 kits) are born in the spring. The kits are born blind, deaf, and toothless, with dark brown fur that will turn red as they grow up.
At about 3-4 weeks, the kits begin venturing out of the mouth of the den, eating food their parents bring them. They’ll continue to nurse through about the 7th week. If anything happens to the mother, the father fox will take over child-raising until the pups are grown.
By 6-7 months, the young foxes are fully mature. If the food resources of their area are good, young foxes may leave the family at that point and find a territory of their own. If food resources are scarce, the group will stay together with the younger foxes in a non-breeding position.
What do you call a male fox, a female fox, and a baby fox?
A dog fox (or, sometimes, a reynard), a vixen, and a kit.
What's the name of the house a fox builds for itself?
During breeding season, foxes dig a den in a hillside or around the roots of a tree. The den usually consists of a long tunnel–a handy place for a fox to dart when a predator is nearby–with a larger burrow at the end.
Dens are often used year after year, and some dens have been in consistent use for decades. In warmer weather and when there aren’t any little kits, foxes usually prefer to sleep outside their den in dense underbrush.
How do foxes communicate?
Foxes use a combination of body language and sounds to communicate with other foxes. Submissive foxes will approach a dominant fox in a low crouch, with their muzzles reach up in greeting.
When one fox meets another, they’ll often make a “wow wow wow” sound. This is especially common in the mating season.
When foxes near each other, they make clucking type sounds or sometime high pitched whines. Fox parents have special “huffing” sounds they use to greet their kits.