Red Fox Sightings

Order: Carnivora Family: Canidae Genus: Vulpes Species: Vulpes vulpes

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Article below from Wikipedia entry: Red fox

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes and the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America and Asia. Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered harmful to native mammal and bird populations. Because of these factors, it is listed as Least Concern for extinction by the IUCN.[1] Due to its presence in Australia, it is included among the IUCN's list of the "world's 100 worst invasive species".[3]

The red fox originated from smaller-sized ancestors from Eurasia during the Middle Villafranchian period,[4] and colonised North America shortly after the Wisconsin glaciation.[5] Among the true foxes, the red fox represents a more progressive form in the direction of carnivory.[6] Apart from its large size, the red fox is distinguished from other fox species by its ability to adapt quickly to new environments and, unlike most of its related species, is not listed as endangered anywhere. Despite its name, the species often produces individuals with abnormal colourings, including albinos and melanists.[7] Forty-five subspecies are currently recognised,[8] which are divided into two categories: the large northern foxes, and the small southern foxes of Asia and the Middle East.[9]

Red foxes are often together in pairs or small groups consisting of families, such as a mated pair and their young, or a male with several females having kinship ties. The young of the mated pair remain with their parents to assist in caring for new kits.[10] The species primarily feeds on small rodents, though it may also target leporids, game birds, reptiles, invertebrates[11] and young ungulates.[12] Fruit and vegetable matter is also eaten on occasion.[13] Although the red fox tends to displace or even kill smaller predators, it is nonetheless vulnerable to attack from larger predators, such as wolves, coyotes, golden jackals and medium- and large-sized felines.[14]

The species has a long history of association with humans, having been extensively hunted as a pest and furbearer for centuries, as well as being prominently represented in human folklore and mythology. Because of its widespread distribution and large population, the red fox is one of the most important furbearing animals harvested for the fur trade.[15]


  • 1 Evolution
    • 1.1 Origins
    • 1.2 Colonisation of North America
    • 1.3 Subspecies
  • 2 Description
    • 2.1 Build
    • 2.2 Dimensions
    • 2.3 Fur
      • 2.3.1 Mutations
    • 2.4 Senses
    • 2.5 Scent glands
  • 3 Behaviour
    • 3.1 Social and territorial behaviour
    • 3.2 Reproduction and development
    • 3.3 Denning behaviour
  • 4 Communication
    • 4.1 Body language
    • 4.2 Vocalisations
  • 5 Ecology
    • 5.1 Diet, hunting and feeding behaviour
    • 5.2 Enemies and competitors
  • 6 Range
    • 6.1 Australia
    • 6.2 Sardinia
  • 7 Diseases and parasites
  • 8 Relationships with humans
    • 8.1 In folklore and mythology
    • 8.2 Hunting
    • 8.3 Fur use
    • 8.4 Livestock, game and pet predation
    • 8.5 Taming and domestication
    • 8.6 Urban foxes
  • 9 Notes
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links


Comparative illustration of skulls of red fox (left) and Rüppell's fox (right): Note the more developed facial area of the former.

The red fox is considered a more specialised, progressive form of Vulpes than the Afghan, corsac and Bengal foxes in the direction of size and adaptation to carnivory; the skull displays much fewer neotenous traits than in other species, and its facial area is more developed.[6] It is, however, not as maximally adapted for a carnivorous diet as the Tibetan fox.[16]

Arctic fox

Kit fox

Corsac fox

Rüppell's fox

Red fox[17](Fig. 10)

Cape fox

Blanford's fox

Fennec fox

Raccoon dog

Bat-eared fox


The species is Eurasian in origin, and may have evolved from either Vulpes alopecoides or the related Chinese V. chikushanensis, both of which lived during the Middle Villafranchian.[4] The earliest fossil specimens of V. vulpes were uncovered in Barany, Hungary dating from between 3.4 and 1.8 million years ago.[18] The ancestral species was likely smaller than the current one, as the earliest red fox fossils are smaller than modern populations.[4] The earliest fossil remains of the modern species date back to the mid-Pleistocene in association with the refuse of early human settlements. This has led to the theory that the red fox was exploited by primitive humans as both a source of food and pelts.[19]

Colonisation of North America

Red foxes colonised the North American continent in two waves: during or before the Illinoian glaciation, and during the Wisconsinan glaciation.[20] In the far north, red fox fossils have been found in Sangamonian deposits in the Fairbanks District and Medicine Hat. Fossils dating from the Wisconsian are present in 25 sites in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming. Although they ranged far south during the Wisconsinan, the onset of warm conditions shrank their range toward the north, and have only recently reclaimed their former American ranges because of human-induced environmental changes.[5] Genetic testing indicates two distinct red fox refugia exist in North America, which have been separated since the Wisconsinan. The northern (or boreal) refugium occurs in Alaska and western Canada, and consists of the large subspecies V. v. alascensis, V. v. abietorum, V. v. regalis and V. v. rubricosa. The southern (or montane) refugium occurs in the subalpine parklands and alpine meadows of the Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada. It encompasses the subspecies V. v. macroura, V. v. cascadensis and V. v. necator. The latter clade has been separated from all other red fox populations since the last glacial maximum, and may possess unique ecological or physiological adaptations.[20]


Skull of a northern fox
Skull of a southern grey desert fox

As of 2005,[8] 45 subspecies are recognised. In 2010, another possible distinct subspecies was discovered in Sacramento Valley through mitochondrial haplotype studies.[21]

Substantial gene pool mixing between different subspecies is known; British red foxes have crossbred extensively with foxes imported from Germany, France, Belgium, Sardinia, and possibly Siberia and Scandinavia.[22] European foxes were introduced to portions of the USA in the 18th century, thus crossbreeding with local North American populations.[23] Also, introduced eastern red foxes in California may be interbreeding with local V. v. necator populations.[24] Red fox subspecies are divided into two categories:[9]

  • Northern foxes are large and brightly coloured.
  • Southern grey desert foxes include the Asian subspecies V. v. griffithi, V. v. pusilla and V. v. flavescens. These foxes display transitional features between northern red foxes and smaller fox species; their skulls possess more primitive, neotenous traits than the northern forms,[16] and are also much smaller; the maximum sizes attained by southern foxes are invariably less than the average sizes of northern foxes. Their limbs are also longer, and their ears larger.[25]

Red foxes living in Middle Asia show physical traits intermediate to the northern and southern forms.[26]

Red fox
Temporal range: Mid-Pleistocene–Recent
European red fox (V. v. crucigera), British Wildlife Centre, Surrey
Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Tribe: Vulpini
Genus: Vulpes
Species: V. vulpes
Binomial name
Vulpes vulpes
(Linnaeus, 1758)[2]

45 ssp., see text

Distribution of the red fox (green - native, blue - introduced, orange - presence uncertain).

Canis vulpes Linnaeus, 1758