The Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of the true foxes and one of the most widely distributed members of the order Carnivora, being present across the entire Northern Hemisphere. Its range has increased alongside human expansion, having been introduced to Australia, where it is considered harmful to native mammals and bird populations. Apart from its large size, the Red fox is distinguished from other fox species by its ability to adapt quickly to new environments. Despite its name, the species often produces individuals with other colorings, including leucistic and melanistic individuals. Forty-five subspecies are currently recognized, which are divided into two categories: the large northern foxes and the small, basal southern grey desert foxes of Asia and North Africa.
Male Red foxes are slightly bigger than females. The fur color of these animals ranges from pale yellowish red to a deep reddish brown for the upper parts and white or ashy on the underside. Their legs are usually black on the lower parts and the tails often are tipped with black or white and have tail glands. The eyes of Red foxes are yellow in adulthood and their noses are black or dark brown.
Red foxes are distributed across the Northern Hemisphere but do not live in Iceland, some parts of Siberia, the Arctic islands, or extreme deserts. They live in many different habitats around the world including forests, grasslands, deserts, and mountains, having the greatest geographic range of all members of the Carnivora family. They can adapt well to human habitats such as farms and suburban areas, even quite large communities.
Red foxes live in family groups sharing a joint territory. Adults have a home range that varies in size according to the quality of the environment. In rich areas they may measure 5 to 12 square kilometers, being larger in poorer areas, from 20 to 50 square kilometers. Occupants of a range are an adult male and one or two females with their young. Families and individuals live in dens made of earth and often have emergency burrows within the home range. Often the same den is used over several generations. Red foxes may leave their families once they reach adulthood if the chances of winning a territory of their own are high. If not, they will stay with their parents. Red foxes prefer to hunt in the early morning hours before sunrise and late evening. Although they typically forage alone, they may aggregate in resource-rich environments. When hunting mouse-like prey, they first pinpoint their prey's location by sound, then leap, sailing high above their quarry, steering in mid-air with their tails, before landing on a target up to 5 meters (16 ft) away. Red foxes have a wide vocal range and produce different sounds. There are 12 different sounds produced by adults and 8 by kits. The majority of sounds can be divided into "contact" and "interaction" calls. Another call is a long, drawn-out, monosyllabic "waaaaah" sound commonly heard during the breeding season. When danger is detected, Red foxes emit a monosyllabic bark. Kits make warbling whimpers when nursing, these calls being especially loud when they are dissatisfied.
Red foxes are omnivores and scavengers and eat a highly varied diet. They feed mostly on small rodents such as voles, mice, hamsters, ground squirrels, gerbils, woodchucks, deer mice, and pocket gophers. They also eat birds, rabbits, porcupines, hares, raccoons, opossums, insects, and small reptiles. Red foxes also consume carrion and d this typically only in the late evening hours and at night.
Red foxes are generally monogamous and form pairs; however, some males may mate with more than one female during the breeding season. Red foxes mate from January to March. After mating the female builds one or more dens and spare dens can be used if the original one is disturbed. The gestation period lasts 49-58 days and the average litter size consists of 4-6 kits, though litters of up to 13 kits have occurred. The young are born blind, deaf, and toothless, with dark brown fluffy fur. At birth, they are short-legged, large-headed, and have broad chests. Mothers remain with their kits for 2-3 weeks, as they are unable to thermoregulate. During this period, the fathers feed the mothers. Females are very protective of their kits and have been known to even fight off terriers in their defense. The kits' eyes open after 13-15 days, during which time their ear canals open and their upper teeth erupt, with the lower teeth emerging 3–4 days later. Their eyes are initially blue but change to amber at 4-5 weeks. Kits begin to leave their dens and experiment with solid food brought by their parents at the age of 3-4 weeks. The lactation period lasts 6-7 weeks. The kits reach adult proportions at the age of 6-7 months. Some females become reproductively mature at the age of 9-10 months, thus bearing their first litters at one year of age.
Globally, there appear to be no major threats to Red foxes at present. Locally, these animals may suffer from habitat degradation, loss, and fragmentation, and overhunting.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Red fox total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are stable.
Red foxes help control the populations of their prey, such as rabbits and rodents. They may also disperse seeds due to eating fruit.
Red foxes usually do not make good pets. Well-meaning people adopt supposedly abandoned kits during the spring period. Actual orphans are rare; those adopted have probably strayed from the site of their den. Generally friendly toward people when very young, captive Red foxes develop a fear of humans, except for their handlers, from 10 weeks of age.