Sunday, May 2, 2010
This year on the farm has proven to be quite interesting where wildlife is concerned. My husband and I have been seeing an adult Red Fox roaming around our farm for many weeks now. Because of the frequency in which we've been seeing her we figured the fox was a female and probably had babies somewhere on our farm. One day about 2 weeks ago Joey rounded the corner of one of our sheds and she was sitting beside a hole that leads under the shed. She began yipping and barking at him. I figured by the description of her behavior those babies were under the shed. Exactly one week later Joey and I were on the four-wheeler and drove around the same shed and one of the babies was outside. It was trying with great effort to drag a rather large rabbit, that it's mother killed for it back under the shed. After much tugging and pulling he finally managed to get it back inside.
I tried for the last two weeks to get pictures of the babies all to no avail. Then today my husband was spraying weeds in one of our lots when he spotted three fox kits running around and playing. He called me and told me to come down to the lot if I wanted pictures. I quietly approached this drainage tube and sat patiently waiting. After about an hour two kits ran out, spotted me and took off under the shed.. I knew there was at least one more so I continued to wait. 15 minutes more went by when a little face peeked out. Within a few more minutes another little face peeked out. There are a total of four kits.
The one of the left in this picture seems to be the dominant sibling. He was larger than the other three and more confident. The little one on the right was very submissive to him, and seemed to look up to him for security. It was very cute to watch them interact.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) are apex predators. They are the most widely spread of all fox species. As their name suggests they are predominantly reddish is color. There are some variations in color occurring in some specimens. They may be gray or even silver. These lighter colored foxes are often called "Silver Fox". Closely related to dogs, they have learned to adapt quite well to human encroachment. This ability to co-exist with humans has led to them being a highly successful predator that is very plentiful in almost all of its range. They are even able to co-inhabit areas where other more specific species of fix live such as the Arctic Fox.
Red Foxes can be found throughout almost all of North America, and are considered native to forested areas, but are introduced in more temperate regions. Many Red Fox were imported into the United States to create a fox hunting population, many of these imported species most likely crossbred with the native red fox to create a hybrid. This hybrid red fox could be the red fox many of us see.
Red Fox are the largest of the "true foxes" and can weigh up to 17 pounds. The fox which live in northern regions tend to be much larger than the ones found in more temperate time zones. Probably the most recognized feature of the Red Fox is their bushy tail. It is typically tipped with white and almost half as long as its body length. They will use this large fuzzy tail to wrap around themselves in the winter to help keep them warm. They have very large ears, which gives them excellent hearing. When I do trail hikes with small children we use our "fox ears" to hear things better. I have the kids hold their hands in front of them so that all their fingers are touching, then we place them behind our ears and push our ears forward. This funnels sounds into our ears and makes sounds appear louder. This is similar to the way foxes hear, they funnel sounds into those really large ears.
Although they are predators, they will feed on a variety of foods. This includes berries, fruit and even sunflower seeds. So while they are classified as carnivores, they are more accurately omnivores. When hunting their favorites are mice, voles, rabbits, birds and eggs. They have even been known to take down deer fawns. Watching them hunt is very humorous, it looks as if they are playing with their upcoming meal. They will stalk their prey, then leap high into the air and pounce the unsuspecting victim. They are capable of hearing mice scurrying around in the tall grass from a great distance. Fox have small stomachs for their overall size and cannot consume large portions at a single feeding. They will store leftover food in caches to consume later.
Many people have long held the belief that Red Fox and Coyotes will not co-exist in the same territory. Red Fox do tend to live outside the perimeters of the coyotes home range. In reality most coyotes will ignore the red fox. In fact there are documentations of the red fox and the coyotes feeding together. There are definitely cases where the fox and coyote are aggressive to each other, these aggressions are usually initiated by the coyote. The only time the fox would be the aggressor would be if the coyotes approached her young. Here on our farm we have a family of coyotes living in a ditch on our property and we also have this family of fox. They seem to co-exist peacefully.
Typically fox are loners and only pair up in the winter. Their territories may be as large as 19 square miles. Several dens will be located within their ranges, and they will utilize these dens as hideouts. A larger den will be used during the winters, and for a birthing chamber. They will mark their territory using scent glands located underneath their tail. The scent given off by this gland is very much like the scent from a skunk. They are not capable of spraying their scent like a skunk though. We humans can smell the scent if we are within a few feet of where the fox sprays. Mated pairs will raise 4 to 6 young each year. When the young reach 8 months of age they are capable of being on their own, and usually leave the den to begin life as a full fledged adult fox.
I feel very fortunate to have this family of fox living on our farm and I hope to see them much more in the future. I'm sure they will help control and overpopulation of rabbits that tend to eat our garden veggies.