The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is one of two fox species in Ohio and one of five in North America. The state’s other fox is the gray fox. The Arctic, swift, and kit foxes are the other species found in North America. North American foxes inhabit a wide range of habitats from deserts to forests to snow-covered tundras. This isn’t completely surprising as the red and other foxes are members of the same family of adaptable animals that includes the wolves, coyote, and domestic dog -- Canidae.
The red fox is likely the one that comes to mind when you think of a fox. Although it can have several color variations, the red fox takes its name from its most common color phase: a rusty-red or reddish yellow coat from its face down its back and sides. Its undersides, throat area, and cheeks are white. The legs, feet, and outside of the ears are black; its long, bushy tail has black hairs mixed with the red and ends in a white tip. This feature can be used to help identify it; the gray fox’s tail has a black tip. The tail of the red fox is usually between 14 and 16 inches long.
Red foxes are monogamous breeders. Peak breeding activity occurs January-February. Gestation lasts 51-53 days and young are born in February - April. Litters typically consist of 5 or 6 kits and usually only one litter is born per year. Females that need to dig their own dens from scratch usually do so by selecting an area of loose, sandy soil with a southern exposure. Most fox dens are about four feet below ground. While the female is below ground nursing her offspring, the male will bring her food. He continues in this role until the young are weaned and can go with their parents on hunting trips where they learn basic survival skills. By fall of the same year, the family unit breaks up; the young are mature enough to go on their own and their parents split and live independently until the start of the next breeding season.
Habitat & Behavior
Red foxes are solitary creatures during the fall and early winter. Their range is one to two miles, but if food supplies dwindle within this area, the animals will extend their normal range to search for food. They typically eat mice, rats, rabbits, groundhogs, and other small mammals; also birds, fruits, and some grasses. These foxes do not hibernate; under extreme winter weather conditions they will reduce activity levels and take shelter for a day or two. Red foxes are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they are most active at night, feeding and moving from place to place. Nonetheless they are often found hunting during daylight hours.
Research & Surveys
This furbearer occurs throughout the state in farmland and mixed pasture or woodland habitats, with the majority being found in the central and northwestern portions of Ohio. The statewide population has exhibited a declining trend over the past 10 years. As such, viewing and harvest opportunities are below the long-term average. Research and development of Best Management Practices has identified traps and trapping systems that allow for the safe, selective, and efficient capture of red foxes, while maintaining high animal welfare standards.