Daily Archives: February 20, 2014

Introducing the RED FOX

ared-2When I was in my teens I spent a lot of time wandering the wild land around my family’s house in western New York state. Our small ranch home was sandwiched between a meandering creek behind us and many acres of forest and fields across the street. Wild tracts of forest lined the farmer’s fields and meadows long forgotten dotted the patchwork. I could leave my house out the back door, maneuver my way down the 30 foot cliff to the creek, walk along or in the shallow water for miles and then cross the road miles from our house and return through the fields and finally return, up our driveway. I grew to know the land as well as my own house and enjoyed countless hours looking for animals and interesting things to photograph. Oh the things I saw! This way of learning was so much more meaningful to me than anything I ever learned inside the walls of my classroom at school.

The beautiful red fox was one animal I was fortunate enough to see regularly, especially in the spring when their dens were active. After finding one and getting to watch the playful pups, I was hooked. I sometimes arrived before dawn, setting up the makeshift blind my father had made for me and getting settled in time to see the sunlight spill across the fields. Back then I did not have the high quality lenses that I do now so many of my beginning attempts at photography are lacking the sharpness they require. Even so, I got a thrill just seeing the foxes and getting what I considered a sneak peak into their secret lives.

Here are some things I learned about the red fox from my explorations, observations or from reading about them.

1. Though their sound isn’t well known like many other animals, Red foxes DO make a number of sounds. They will make what sounds a bit like a dog’s bark if you get too close to their den. Another call they make is one that is difficult to describe (you can hear it on my page called What DOES the fox say?) but it’s a kind of shriek that seems to be moving. They make this sound to announce their territory and will spend considerable time walking the perimeter of their “land” and making their presence known.

Baby fox pee smells like a skunk. If you are walking though the woods on a sunny spring day and suddenly get a whiff of skunk, it may be that a fox den is nearby.

ared-0303. Females have one litter a year, up to ten pups. 3 to 6 is normal. Females give birth in the den between March and April. Young are blind until about two weeks of age. Both the male and the female fox will bring food for the young.Their den is usually at the edge of a field and will have multiple entrances. In addition, they will have another den ready nearby, in case they need to move the pups quickly.

4. Red Foxes eat a variety of things including voles, mice, rabbits, small birds, reptiles, some plants, fruit and berries. They will also feed on small invertebrates including insects and spiders.

5. It is common for a red fox to make food caches. This means they hide their food, usually in a shallow depression, and return for it when they are hungry.

6.  Red foxes have a white -tipped tail. This is one way to distinguish between a grey fox and a red fox. Red foxes have white tipped tails. Grey foxes have dark-tipped tails.  The tail of a red fox is almost half of the length of its body which is 48-57 inches. They weigh 8-12 pounds as adults.

7.  Red foxes are crepuscular meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. However, it is not unusual to see them in the day, especially if they have pups to feed.

8. If you’ve ever shined a light at a red fox in the dark, you will know they have GREEN eye shine. Many nocturnal and crepuscular animals have a reflective tissue layer in the back of their eyes called a tapetum. When light hits this, it bounces back, allowing the animal to get just a little more light. You can sometimes recognize animals by the color of their eye shine.

ared-0289. The lifespan of a red fox is 3-6 years. 

10. Red foxes have been clocked running 45 miles per hour.