Foxy Photography – Wily Ways Of The Red Fox
Foxy Photography – The Wily Ways of the Red Fox
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is one of the most widely distributed mammals throughout the world, occurring naturally in four continents. In North America they range from northern Mexico to the high arctic.
Northern red fox populations lead primarily nocturnal lives, using dens made by other animals in open fields or brush for shelter during severe weather and rearing young. They breed from February to April. Monogamous males supply food to females up to and after birthing, otherwise leaving the female alone with the young (also called “kits” or “pups”) in a “maternity den”. Foxes are omnivorous, opportunistic predators and can be found foraging in fields, brush, ditches and forest, eating whatever is available from insects and berries to small mammals, eggs and game birds, sometimes carrion. An average litter size is five kits, but may be as large as 13 so do not be surprised when young foxes continue to appear. In the early spring and summer red foxes of all ages will be more visible than at any other time of year.
After five weeks the young are weaned and moved to a larger den at least once and maybe several times. This den switching can sometimes stump the fox chaser as to their current location. There is increasing activity in the vicinity of the “foxhole” as the kits advance on their first exploratory steps, by ten weeks they are fully weaned and, after a brief “training period”, they disperse around 15 weeks of age reaching maturity at 6 months. Busy parents are out and about scrambling for food full time for the group well into the summer while inquisitive kits are learning the ways of the natural world. Kits will spend their early days very close to the entrance inspecting their immediate surrounds, pouncing on insects, scratching at vegetation, biting feathers from last night’s mallard meal, sniffing dandelions and climbing all over each other when they aren’t catching a snooze. Kit interaction can be some of the most rewarding study in animal behaviour with a front row ticket. The animals can become so comfortable that “life rolls along” – jumping, scratching, chasing, pouncing, biting, fighting, licking and sometimes peacefully sitting or lying together. It will be all one can do to stop smiling at their antics.
Young kits don’t usually emerge from the hole until later in the morning after which time the patient observer may be treated to an array of activities. Older kits may be out earlier and for longer periods of time learning hunting routines while the runt is still unwilling to leave the den. Young foxes will often look off in the same direction from the den site, a clue as to the direction of a watchful parent. The emergence stage can be the most predictable as to the whereabouts of the entire group until independent kits venture away. Soon the most daring will venture away from the den, which will continue to be active until the last kit gains enough confidence to leave. They may continue to linger around the site but not as predictably as when they first ventured out.
Their versatility, wide availability and charming qualities have Red Foxes, young and old, on most nature watcher’s “wish list”. Their preference for a wide range of habitats has them homesteading in parks, residential neighbourhoods and urban natural spaces, as well as uninhabited environments. Their wily, foxy ways and being habituated to human routines, leaves most nature seekers with only the evidence of their presence. When your daily routine crosses a Red Foxes routine, adult or kit, the only result is charm and delight, unless of course you own a chicken coop!
For more on North American wild, see also: