Species: Red Fox (Canis vulpes)

Family: Dogs and Foxes (CANIDAE)

Category: Mammals

Location: NW

A. Mammals

More extensive information on mammals can be found in a separate blog post.

B. Dogs and Foxes (CANIDAE)

Two members of this family are native to the UK, the red fox and grey wolf, the latter having been exterminated in the 18th century, but since reintroduced into a controlled area of Scotland. The dog family is rather less rigidly carnivorous than the cats, being as omnivorous as it needs to be to survive. Foxes are very important predators in the countryside and should be protected.

C. Red Fox (Canis vulpes)

With its red-brown coat, long bushy tail with white tip, narrow muzzle, and large erect ears, the fox is unmistakeable. They are principally nocturnal in the countryside, and will spend the day under cover, or in a burrow or earth. The hole of the earth is tall and narrow, and the excavated soil heap has a fan shape. If foxes are in residence there will be a musky odour. They will hunt anywhere and eat anything edible. The dog's high-pitched bark and the vixen's scream are distinctive, as is the scent of the urine. Foxes footprints show claw marks and are normally in a straight trail, the palm pad being about the same size as the four toe pads. A dog's palm pad is much larger. The droppings are cylindrical with one pointed end, and have a strong, musty odour.

There are many myths surrounding the fox. A fox's bite was once thought to be fatal, which it is not. They do not kill for pleasure, but take prey not needed immediately and bury or cache it for later. Foxes and dogs do not mate and cannot hybridise. Vixens have a very short breeding season of a few winter weeks, and outside this time they are not fertile. Foxes have not recently moved into towns because there is insufficient food in the countryside. They have been opportunistic predators and scavengers for centuries, with their barks and screams well known in urban areas.

Foxes are smart, cunning tricksters in folklore, who 'outfox' the other characters in the tale. In mythology they are often shape-shifters. Not for nothing was 'Suburban Fox' a popular computer game in the early days of interactive programming, in which the player had to assume the position of a fox trying to survive the hazards of life away from the countryside. Reynard was a medieval anthropomorphic red fox and trickster figure, who featured in a cycle of 12th century stories. His main adversary was the wolf Isengrim, whom he frequently outwitted. One curious belief was that if it rains while there is bright sunshine foxes are getting married.

Images

Red Fox

With its red-brown coat, long bushy tail with white tip, narrow muzzle, and large erect ears, the Red Fox is unmistakeable.

Red Fox

Red Foxes are principally nocturnal in the countryside, and will spend the day under cover, or in a burrow or earth.