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Red Fox
Vulpes vulpes

The Dogs
Dog Family (Canidae)

Measurement: Size: None Weight: None

Description: The red fox is the most common fox across North America, and the most widely distributed carnivore on Earth. The red fox is small dog, with a long nose, pointed ears and a bushy tail. There are several different colour phases, and more than one at a time may be present in a single litter. The most common red phase has a reddish back, tail and legs, and a white underside. The feet and tips of the ears may be black.

Other colour phases vary from brown to black. These darker phases often have a slightly darker patch that runs across the back from the base of one front leg to the base of the other, forming a cross across the back. This has earned them the nickname "cross fox". Some individuals may even be almost black with white tipped guard hairs. These are often called "silver foxes"

Range: While common across much of Canada, it is found generally on the margin of the Rockies, usually along the edge of the plains. More recently, wolf populations have increased in the Central Rockies. Wolves actively hunt coyotes and as the population of this competing predator drops, fox are able to move farther into the mountains. Recently, red fox have begun to appear within the Bow valley in Banff National Park. For some reason, wolves do not take the same aggressive stance with fox.

Diet: Fox are a predator of small mammals, ground squirrels, mice, voles and insects. In winter, they dig out the mice and voles from their tunnels beneath the snow. They will take the occasional snowshoe hare, a few small birds and grouse, and they are not above carrion, helping a wolf pack to clean up after themselves. Despite their carnivorous nature, they also eat berries and other plants.

Red fox are notorious for their fondness for eggs and poultry. This has led to their being hunted and persecuted by farmers. It has also been heavily trapped for its luxuriant coat. Man is still the largest predator of fox, but the adaptable nature of the fox has seen it thrive despite these attacks. Other predators include wolves, coyotes, lynx and cougars.

Reproduction: Mating takes place between January and March, when the female comes into heat. After numerous males compete for her attention, the successful suitor will mate with her. Once they mate, it's time to set up house. They may use a previous den, an old beaver dam, or build a new den themselves. The whelps (yes that is what baby fox are called) are born between April and May. There may be as many as 10 pups, but the numbers average around five.

The pups are born blind, and remain that way for the first two weeks of life. They remain in the den until they are weaned around a month after birth. Soon they begin to make quick forays to the entrance of the den and feed on meat brought to them by their parents. After just 3 to 4 months, the pups are sent away to make their own way in the world.

Notes: Fox are another carrier of rabies, and in urban areas has become occasionally become a problem. In some areas, wild populations have been vaccinated through the dropping of vaccine near the entrance of active dens.

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005



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