Red Fox photos
All photographs on this site may be licensed as stock photography for business use, or purchased as fine art pictures for home or office decor. I photographed the red fox in locations all across Alaska. While many confuse its different color phases as different animals, they are all the same species vulpes vulpes. Red fox inhabit most of Alaska and the photo here were taken all over the state. The natural history information was taken from the Alaska Fish and Game Wildlife Notebook Series.
The Red fox
The red fox is the subject of many stories, songs, fables, and parables. Its flashy good looks and its ability to live close to people and their varied activities have undoubtedly contributed to this notoriety. Probably a more important reason is the fox’s reputation for cunning and intelligence. Several English expressions testify to the fox’s wily mind: “sly as a fox,” “foxy,” “outfoxed,” and “crazy as a fox.”
Actually, the red fox has well developed senses of sight, smell, and hearing, which are responsible for much of its reputation. The fox prefers broken country, extensive lowland marshes, and crisscrossed hills and draws. It is most abundant south of the arctic tundra. It is also present in tundra regions, which it shares with the arctic fox. Where the ranges of the two species overlap, the red fox is dominant. In these areas, red foxes have been observed digging white (arctic) foxes from their dens and killing them.
Red foxes are members of the dog family Canidae, and their general appearance is similar to dogs, wolves, and coyotes. The red fox measures 22 to 32 inches (56-82 cm) in head and body length, and the tail is 14 inches to 16 inches (35- 43 cm) long.
The adult fox weight is from 6 to 15 pounds (2.7-6.8 kg), but it appears heavier than it actually is. The males, or “dogs,” are usually heavier than the females, or “vixens.” The red fox is usually recognized by its reddish coat, its white- tipped tail, and black “stockings,” although the species does have many color variations. The outside of the ears may be black-tipped, while the inside is usually white. The white tip on the tail will distinguish this fox from other species, regardless of its color phase.
Red is the most common color, but the hair may be from light yellowish to deep auburn red. Several color phases can occur in one litter. Red foxes displaying a distinct color pattern are referred by the name of that phase (i.e., red, cross, silver, black). The cross fox, for example, has a black/brown cross on the back and shoulders. The silver and black phases are similar. However, the black does not have the silver-tipped guard hairs characteristic of the silver fox.
Red foxes breed during February and March. The den is a hole in the earth, 15 to 20 feet long, usually located on the side of a knoll. It may have several entrances. Sometimes foxes dig their own dens. More often, though, they appropriate and enlarge the homesites of small burrowing animals, such as marmots. They also will use abandoned wolf dens. Conversely, wolves may enlarge and use a fox’s den.
Within the den is a grass-lined nest where well-furred but blind babies, called kits, are born after a gestation of 53 days. At birth, kits weigh about 4 ounces. Normally only one litter is born each year. The kits’ eyes open 8 to 10 days after birth. The young leave the den for the first time a month later. The mother gradually weans them, and by the time the kits are 3 months old, they are learning to hunt. Both parents care for the young. The family unit endures until autumn, when it breaks up and each animal is on its own.
The red fox is omnivorous. Although it might eat muskrats, squirrels, hares, birds, eggs, insects, vegetation, and carrion, voles seem to be its preferred food. Foxes cache excess food when the hunting is good. They return to these storage sites and have been observed digging up a cache, inspecting it, and re burying it in the same spot. Apparently, they want to be sure that their food is still there.
Text: Larry Jennings, adapted from the Fish and Game Wildlife notebook series
Revised and reprinted 1994