Red Fox

Vulpes vulpes

Order: Carnivora

Description:  long guard hairs, underfur rich reddish-brown; white- tipped tail; black pointy ears.

Size: 90–105 cm long, about 35–40 cm of this being the tail.

Weight: adults weigh about 5–7 kg

Life Span: Although up to 9 years old has been recorded in the wild, most survive only one to three years

Breeding: Usually only one vixen in a group produces cubs once a year in the spring. Litters average four to five cubs which are born blind and deaf in a den (called an earth). The earth may be dug by the foxes, or they may enlarge a rabbit burrow or use holes made by other animals. In urban areas, cubs are often born under garden sheds. A vixen stays in the earth with her cubs for the first two weeks of their lives. At about four weeks old, usually in late April or early May, cubs begin to come into the open.                                        

Habitat: The fox, highly adaptable species, in all habitats from salt marshes and sand dunes to the tops of mountains. In Britain, more so than elsewhere in Europe, foxes have also adapted to life in urban surroundings.

Diet: Foxes have a very wide and varied diet. On salt marshes they eat crabs and dead seabirds, while in upland regions carrion may be important, particularly during the winter months. In lowland rural areas small mammals, especially field voles and rabbits, are the major source of food, with earthworms, beetles, fruit (particularly blackberries) and small birds also being eaten.

General Ecology: The preferred habitat of red foxes is a mixed landscape—made up of patches of forests, grasslands, and other land-use types—but they live in environments ranging from Arctic tundra to arid desert. Red foxes adapt very well to human presence, thriving in areas with farmland and woods, and populations can be found in many large cities, suburbs, and other urban ecosystems. Mice, voles, and rabbits, as well as eggs, fruit, and birds, make up most of the diet, but foxes readily eat other available food such as carrion, grain (especially sunflower seeds), garbage, pet food left unattended overnight, and domestic poultry.

Red fox 2km2 to 2018

Distribution and main sites: Foxes are widely distributed in Britain and Ireland but are absent from all the Scottish islands, except Skye and Harris, and from the Scilly and Channel isles. GB population: 225,000 (rural); 33,000 (urban). There has been little change in the population over the last 10 years. They have been recorded all over the county although there is a shortage of records from the Clee Hills and surrounding area

Local Survey history: Mainly casual observations

Conservation Status:    Foxes are not protected legally. For many years they were hunted for their fur, and as part of countryside tradition. The Hunting Act 2004 outlawed hunting with dogs in England and Wales, from 18th February 2005.

Threats: Road traffic, accidental and deliberate poisoning, and shooting.

Action: there is an active anti-hunting lobby 

Main recording methods: mainly direct sightings, droppings and smell.

Field Signs

Toilet or latrine sites: Foxes produce dog-like droppings that are usually pointy and twisted at one end and full of fur, feathers, tiny bones, seeds and berries. In rural areas, fox poo is quite dark, but in urban areas, where foxes eat human food waste, it can be lighter. Fresh droppings have a distinctively musky or ‘foxy’ smell.

Acknowledgements: Mammal Society species guide

Text: Ellie Forrester with additions by Malcolm Monie

Fox photo: Tris Pearce

© Shropshire Mammal Group 2020