Red fox have
keen senses of sight, hearing and smell which they use to
advantage in avoiding enemies, and hunting prey species. They
are normally shy, nervous, flighty and they startle easily.
Enemies are escaped by running, and red fox have been clocked at
45 miles per hour. They have good endurance and can run for
miles when they are pursued.
Red fox prefer open areas where
visibility is good, and often seek out open places in the
forests when hunting or resting for the day. Daytime resting
areas are usually on elevated spots, such as knolls or haystacks
and usually in sunny places during the winter. Underground dens
are used mostly during the rearing of the litters and
occasionally during windy or stormy weather conditions.
Red fox are curious animals, indicating
intelligence. However, their suspicious and shy nature compels
them to avoid obvious dangers. They are playful, another
indication of intelligence in animals. Some seem to enjoy being
chased by dogs, and some red fox will make a game out of
uncovering traps. Many times a dropping will be left on the
uncovered trap, or nearby, as a communication either to the
trapper or to other fox who might happen by.
Fox are well equipped to hunt, and they
commonly pounce in a stiff legged fashion upon unsuspecting
voles, mice, and rabbits. Other important foods include fruits
and berries, grasshoppers, snakes, ground nesting birds, and
muskrats . Red fox can and do take domestic fowl when the
opportunity presents itself, particularly during the spring when
there is a need to provide food for growing litters. White
footed mice are an important food source during snow conditions,
as these mice travel on top of the snow while most other mice
and voles tunnel under the snow.
Red fox do not chew their food, but tend
to swallow whole. This accounts for the abundance of fur and
crushed food bones found in fox droppings. They commonly kill
more food that they eat at one time, and bury the extra food in
caches. These caches are made by the fox digging shallow
depressions with its front feet. The excess food is then placed
in the depression and dirt is pushed over the food with the
The red fox is territorial throughout
most of the year, and the choice territories are usually
occupied by the more dominant fox. They are thought to mark
territorial boundaries by urinating on objects at regular
places. These objects are known as "scent stations" and the
scent stations seem to be visited by every fox in the area.
Territory sizes vary according to fox population densities and
the abundance of food. Where red fox are abundant, it appears
that territories overlap and in some areas seem to be shared by
two or even three different family units. In rare instances,
communal denning does occur, with more than one female with her
litter sharing the same den. Under good habitat conditions most
fox territories will be about 2 or 3 square miles, although, if
hunting conditions are good, most fox will stay within a square
mile daily, especially in mild weather. Coyotes persecute red
fox. Coyotes dominate the better territories where the two
species are both found. Red fox move when coyotes are present.
Juvenile red fox begin to wander from
family units during August and September. Significant dispersals
occur during the months of November , December and January as
young fox seek their own territories and mates. Many older red
fox who have lost mates also seek new mates. Males seem to
travel further than females. Many females prefer to stay in the
same territory, even if they have lost their mates. Dispersal
distances vary a great deal and are unpredictable. Two Wisconsin
red fox were tagged in August of 1962. One of the juvenile male
fox was killed the following March 245 miles away in Indiana and
the litter mate was killed in June, just 300 yards away from the
original den site.
Red fox like to climb up on things in
order to get a better view, but they are poor tree climbers. Fox
usually avoid getting wet, but they can and do swim when they
are forced to.