Red Fox facts (Vulpes vulpes)


Red fox
Vulpes vulpes


Three native subspecies exist at high elevations in the United States: the Sierra (V. v. necatar), Cascade (V. v. cascadensis), and Rocky (V. v. macroura) mountains and are collectively called mountain foxes. (Yellowstone’s fox is V. v. macroura.) Little is known about any of these subspecies. Most foxes in the lower 48 states, especially in the eastern and plains states, are a subspecies of fox from Europe introduced in the 1700s and 1800s for fox hunts and fur farms. The foxes that survived the hunt or escaped the fur farms proliferated and headed westward. Solitary, in mated pairs, or with female from previous litter.

Foxes are not often seen because they are nocturnal, usually forage alone, and travel along edges of meadows and forests. During winter, foxes may increase their activity around dawn and dusk, and even sometimes in broad daylight. In late April and May, when females are nursing kits at their dens, they are sometimes more visible during daylight hours, foraging busily to get enough food for their growing offspring.
Recent research shows that red fox are more nocturnal than coyotes, and strongly
prefer forested habitats, while coyotes tend to use sagebrush and open meadow areas. In this way, potential competition between fox and coyotes is minimized. Foxes do not seem to actively avoid coyotes during an average day, they just stick with forested habitat, sleep when coyotes are most active, and then forage opportunistically. Foxes will visit carcasses (like wolf kills) for the occasional big meal, especially during winter, but this is more rare than the scavenging coyotes that park visitors can expect to see on many days, especially during winter.

Red foxes occur in several color phases, but they are usually distinguished from coyotes by their reddish yellow coat that is somewhat darker on the back and shoulders, with black “socks” on their lower legs. “Cross” phases of the red fox (a dark cross on their shoulders) have been reported a few times in recent years in Yellowstone National Park, along with a lighter-colored red fox has been seen at higher elevations. Distinguish from coyote by size, color, and bushier tail.

According to the IUCN this species is considered LEAST CONCERN (lowest threat level).
According to the IUCN this species is considered LEAST CONCERN (lowest threat level).

Up to 44 inches (1.1 m)

Males: 11-12 pounds (4.9-5.4 kg). Females: 10 pounds (4.5 kg).

3-7 years

Least concern

Edges of sagebrush/grassland and within forests.


Voles, mice, rabbits, birds, amphibians, carrion and some plants.

Barks; rarely howls or sings. Foxes will prey on small livestock, such as ducks, chickens, rabbits, and young lambs, but generally do not bother larger livestock. Digging under decks, sheds and crawl spaces is common for foxes so it’s suggested that those areas be closed off to keep foxes from using those areas to rest and raise their young.



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