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Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Supremely adaptable, foxes are equally at home in our countryside and towns and cities.

Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes

Family: Canidae

Appearance

With their red-brown fur, bushy tail and pointed ears, foxes are easily recognisable. Around the size of a small to medium-sized dog, the species typically weighs between 5 to 8kg and stands around 40cm at the shoulder.

Where and how to spot

Foxes are found across the UK and can survive in almost any habitat. Unusually, you are more likely to see a fox in a town or city than in a more natural setting. The UK’s urban fox population may be as high as 150,000 and many of these animals have become relatively habituated to humans. Country foxes tend to be much warier and are far harder to see as a result. Foxes are primarily crepuscular, meaning they are most active around dawn and dusk. However, it is not unusual to see them during the daytime, particularly in urban areas.

Feeding

Foxes are opportunistic eaters and this flexibility allows them to occupy such a wide variety of habitats. Rabbits and rodents (primarily voles) are common prey, but a fox’s diet can include everything from birds and their eggs, to earthworms, beetles and fruit. Urban foxes still catch live prey, but will also readily take advantage of any food discarded by humans. Many people choose to put out food for the foxes that visit their garden. Read our blog to find out what you should and shouldn’t feed them.

Behaviour and breeding

Foxes live in loose family groups that are normally comprised of a dominant male and female and their young. Typically, a litter of four to five cubs will be born in spring and are largely independent by the autumn. Some cubs will stay with their family group, while others we leave to find their own territory. The majority of foxes live no longer than three years.

Threats

Foxes are killed by gamekeepers in a bid to limit predation of pheasants and other gamebirds and are sometimes killed by farmers looking to protect livestock. Large numbers are also killed by cars each year. Despite this, the UK population is thought to be stable.

Did you know?

• Males foxes are called dogs and females are known as vixens.

• Have you ever heard an eerie screeching sound on a cold winter night? The chances are it was a female fox letting males know she is ready to mate.

• Red foxes are the most widely-distributed carnivores in the world, found across most of the Northern Hemisphere. They have also been introduced to Australia.