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Fox in Focus

There are 12 species of fox and they are found on every continent on the world except Antarctica. Foxes can be found in all shapes and sizes from the tiny, white arctic fox to the red fox, also known as the urban fox. These omnivorous scavengers are so successful as a result of their ability to adapt to new environments and to survive on whatever they can find to eat. These widespread species are often represented as the bady in fairy tales, but in reality these nocturnal mammals are very clever and just naturally suspicious of humans — for good reason, it turns out.

 

  • Several species are in decline in their native environments including the Island Fox, which is exclusively found on the eight Californian Channel Islands located off the coast of Southern USA, and Darwin’s Fox which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN. The red fox, or urban fox, is a species of Least Concern.
  • Foxes are exploited for many reasons including for control and for their pelts. Fur farms are illegal in the UK (although the import of fur is not), but cruel fur farming in other countries is still a heart breaking problem.
  • Due to the fact that foxes are so successful, they are often seen as nuisance animals or pests by some groups and this, in part, led to the cruel fox hunting tradition. In 2004 fox hunting using dogs was banned but killing foxes, using what are deemed as ‘humane’ methods, is still legal and there is evidence that illegal fox hunts which use dogs are still a problem in the UK.
  • Foxes are actually in the same family as dogs and are the only type of dog able to retract their claws like cats. The similarities between foxes and cats don’t stop there; foxes also have vertical pupils like cats’ eyes.
  • Some foxes, like the fennec fox and the cape fox, have enormous ears. Both of these species are nocturnal and use their large ears to locate prey in the dark. All foxes have a good sense of hearing which allows them to locate their prey under snow, in the dark and even underground.
  • Foxes are scavengers and will therefore eat just about anything they can. They are omnivores so can survive on a mixture of fruit like berries or fallen tree fruits, insects, small mammals and birds. • Red foxes are often called urban foxes as they have adapted so well to city life. Urban foxes commonly eat rubbish that people leave out.
  • Foxes bury surplus food and eat it later on when they are in need, much like squirrels.
  • Female foxes are called vixens and male foxes are called dog foxes or tods. A group of foxes is called a skulk or a leash.
  • Female foxes have one litter of pups per year, about March time, with around 4-5 pups per litter which are born underground in a den, sometimes called an earth.
  • When pups are born they are unable to see, walk or hear and therefore pups are reliant on their parents for protection and food.
  • Fox life expectancy is short with urban foxes living for around 18 months and rural foxes living for about three years.

 

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