I've been staring at spreadsheets all day - I need some kind of release.
The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest true fox and is widely distributed all throughout the Northern Hemisphere, making it the most common and abundant member of the order Carnivora. It can be found in North America, Asia, Northern Africa, Central America and the Arctic Circle. It can also be found in Australia, but that's because it was introduced there. Its presence Down Under makes it an invasive species, which has caused harm to Australia's ecosystems.
Though Red Foxes are the largest of the true foxes, they are lighter and more wiry than other canids of similar size. They can measure up to 35 inches (90 cm) in body length, with a 21-inch (53 cm) tail. They can weigh up to 31 pounds (14 Kg), although on average females, or Vixens, weigh about 15-20% less than males. They are quick, able to reach speeds of up to 31 miles per hour (50 km/h). Red Foxes are prized for their fur and have three common color morphs: red, cross, and silver/black. Different pelt colors occur in stages toward full melanism, and these variations occur more often in colder regions.
There are currently 45 recognized subspecies of Red Fox, which can be grouped into two categories:
- Northern Foxes are larger and have very brightly-colored pelts
- Southern Grey Desert Foxes are smaller, and represent a transition from the large Red Fox to the smaller foxes of the Southern Hemisphere
The diet of the Red Fox is highly varied, and depends on their specific habitat. In general, they tend to prey on rodents, rabbits and hares, birds, insects, reptiles and young ungulates. Also on the menu are fruits, berries, grasses and tubers - vegetation can make up to 100% of their diet in the autumn. They are able to pinpoint their prey's location through sound, and then leap directly onto their prey - up to 16 feet (5 m) away. They are most active during the twilight hours, before dawn and after dusk.
Red Foxes live in small family groups, usually a mated pair with offspring, or a male and multiple related females. They mate once a year, during the spring, and after a 49 to 58-day gestation period, Vixens will give birth to a litter of four to six kits - although litters of up to 13 kits have been recorded. Vixens are extremely protective of their young, and will fight to the death to guard them. If a mother is killed while her kits are still vulnerable, the father will step in to raise them to adolescence. The Vixen's mate or sisters will feed her in her den while the kits are still within their first four weeks of life.
Red Foxes have a variety of vocalizations, and their voices have a five-octave range. These vocalizations can be categorized into two types:
- Contact Calls, the most common of which is a 3 to 5 syllable "wow wow wow" that Red Foxes use when approaching each other. They cluck when they are close together, and parents will huff to their offspring when greeting them.
- Interaction Calls, which include loud shrieks or whines made by submissive individuals when approached by a dominant individual. In aggressive encounters, they emit a loud rattle called "gekkering," and is used by uninterested Vixens to warn away males, or between rival males competing for a mate.