Red fox thrives in Florida with athleticism, intelligence


A fox can run up to 30 miles per hour in a short burst.

Viera Voice photo

The red fox belongs to the family Canidae, which includes the domestic dog, coyote and wolf. It prevails in various habitats, including pastures or suburbs. Weighing up to 15 pounds, it is the largest of
true foxes.

Stunning fur coloration ranges from light to dark orange. Mutations include brown, silver or black — a rare silver variation.

Since both the red fox and gray fox display red and gray fur, confusion exists. However, their tails are distinctive. The red fox usually has a white-tipped tail; conveniently, the gray fox exhibits a black-tipped tail.

The male fox is called a dog and the female a vixen. A female reaches maturity at 10 months — the male slightly later. In the fall or winter (depending on the region), the male mates with one female or sometimes more. He also might breed outside the
family group.

The prospective mother might excavate more than one natal den — in case the original is disturbed. A vacated one, such as a gopher tortoise burrow, is sometimes enlarged. A den might measure 20- to 40-feet long and 3- to 4-feet deep with multiple entrances. Occupancy sometimes spans generations.

Spring welcomes litters encompassing two to 12 kits (also called pups and cubs) with dark coats. The male does not inhabit the maternity den, but he provides nourishment for his family. Other females and offspring assist with kits.

When not breeding, the fox prefers living in the open. The bushy tail, a “brush” and one-third of its length, is commonly wrapped around the nose to stay warm. Still, a den protects against inclement weather.

Basically nocturnal and solitary, this omnivore does not hunt in packs. It relies on night vision, hearing and smell. Often apprehended are rabbits and rodents, thus controlling the population. The fox can hear a rodent moving underground or a mouse squeaking 330 feet away. It readily smells garbage and pet food.

For survival, it can jump more than 6 feet and run 30 miles per hour in an effort to escape. Beneficial is barking to announce intruders. Foxes do not chorus howl like wolves or coyotes. To overrule during conflict, the fox may “dance" by standing on hind legs, with forelegs on the opponent’s shoulders, and mouth open — thus the fox trot.

The “fox in the henhouse” outrages the farmer. It might frantically kill 30 birds, but keep only one. It also might store some in an underground food cache. Innovative fencing controls this occasional pest. Precaution is crucial with the fox, a vector for rabies.

In England, training hunting packs for fox hunting originated in the late 1600s; the fox hunt is now controversial there. In the United States, this sport is often called “fox chasing,” with no intent to kill. Conceivably, the traditional red fox is pursued in its natural setting. If the cunning fox “goes to ground” (hides in a hole), the hounds are withdrawn. However, in some areas, the coyote, a competitor for fox habitats, is fair game. Tally-ho!

Actually, the demand for fur has declined through activism. Therefore, the wild fox population is improving. Plus, fur farming is ongoing. In the United States, fur production used to be prevalent. Presently, China is extremely competitive in the market.

Though not native to Florida, the red fox has adapted and does not require assistance for survival — a naturalized species. Evidently, this animal is resourceful and intelligent — sly as a fox.  


Haiku from Hailey Scalia, age 10

Sneaky, sly, speedy

A red flash in the deep wood

A fox I can see