American red fox

American red fox

American red fox


Vulpes vulpes fulvus

The North American red fox (Vulpes vulpes fulva ) is a North American subspecies of the red fox. It is the largest of the true foxes and one of the most widely distributed members of the order Carnivora, occurring in North America. It is listed as least concern by the IUCN.



Vulpes vulpes fulvus inhabits the entire region of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains except the southern Great Plains and southern Texas (Frey, 2013; Tesky, 1995). The eastern American red fox generally prefers mixed vegetation communities that occur on edge habitats with a high level of diversity (Tesky, 1995). In developed areas, the eastern American red fox will inhabit areas that offer a combination of woodland and agricultural land (Tesky, 1995).

Habits and Lifestyle

Diet and Nutrition

The eastern American red fox has a primarily carnivorous diet dominated by small mammals (Frey, 2013). However, as an opportunistic species they will adopt an omnivorous diet that includes plants, fruits, berries, birds, insects and other small animals (Tesky, 1995). Food sources can vary depending on region, but cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus ) are the most important prey for eastern American red foxes (Frey, 2013). The eastern American red fox will consume larger animals as carrion and their diet changes depending on seasonal variability (Tesky, 1995).


Population number

Current literature discusses whether or not the red fox is native to North America, with some research suggesting that nearly all red fox populations in North America are not native (Kamler & Ballard, 2002). Vulpes vulpes is usually seen either as an exotic species introduced by Europeans during the colonization of the North American continent or as a hybrid between European and North American red foxes (Frey, 2013; Aubry et al., 2009). While it is claimed that Vulpes vulpes fulvus stems from a non-native population that spread westward from European introduction (Kamler & Ballard, 2002), a historical analysis of firsthand accounts does not support this claim (Frey, 2013).

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Phylogeographical and genetic analysis of the eastern American red fox suggests that red foxes first migrated to North America during the Illinoian glaciation (300,000 to 130,000 years before present) and spread southward (Aubry et al., 2009) More recently, the Wisconsin glaciation (100,000 to 10,000 before present) separated the North American red fox population into two distinct areas (Aubry et al., 2009). North American red foxes are genetically distinctive from their Eurasian counterparts (Aubry et al., 2009; Frey 2013). Despite claims of historical translocations from Europe, modern red fox populations in the United States’ southeastern region have been shown to be native to North America (Statham et al., 2012). DNA comparisons show that the eastern American red fox is closely related to native populations in Canada and the northeastern region of the United States and is, therefore, the result of natural range expansions and not an invasive species from Europe as was previously thought (Statham et al., 2012). Range expansions seen recently may be connected to anthropogenic landscape change and not the spread of exotic European populations (Statham et al., 2012).

The native status of the eastern American red fox has been demonstrated by current research, which has important implications for management strategies. Previous classifications and taxonomic uncertainties (Kamler & Ballard, 2002) frame populations of Vulpes fulva as a non-native invasive species that can cause declines in the populations of native species and in carrying capacities and can populate regions at higher densities (Kamler & Ballard, 2002). The identification of the origins of the North American red fox populations is crucial in conservation efforts aimed at native vs. non-native species (Statham et al., 2012). In 2014, Statham et al released a study that supports Vulpes fulva as a separate species from the Old World Vulpes vulpes.

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