Vulpes vulpes
(Linnaeus, 1758)

vul-pEs vul-pEs

A melanistic Red Fox from western Butler County. Photo by Heather Knowles.
Photo by Bob Gress.

Red Foxes are small, dog-like members of the family Canidae. They are slender with long legs, a long muzzle, large pointed ears, and a bushy tail that is about as long as the head and body. Dorsal pelage coloration ranges from pale yellowish red to dark reddish brown, whereas color of the venter is white. The tips of the ears are black, the lower legs and feet are black, and the tip of the tail is white. Three color morphs have been recognized: red, silver or black, and cross. Red foxes are geographically variable. In Kansas, adults typically attain the following dimensions: total length 920-1042 mm; length of tail 310-378 mm; length of hind foot 140-170 mm; length of ear 75-90 mm; weight 3.5-6.5 kg. The dental formula is incisors 3/3, canine 1/1, premolars 4/4, molars 2/3. 

They can be distinguished from other members of the family Canidae by their size and coloration. Red Fox pups might be confused with the Swift Fox but have juvenile features and fuzzy juvenile pelage.

The Red Fox has the largest distribution of any carnivore. It occurs throughout Europe and much of Asia and into the Middle East and northern Africa. Also, it has been introduced into Australia. In North America, it occurs throughout Canada and much of the United States. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the Red Fox occurred anywhere in Kansas before the arrival of European settlers. During colonial times, Red Foxes were introduced from England for fox hunting. There were numerous introductions into eastern Kansas and in adjacent states, and the Red Fox was able to become established in areas that formerly had been inhabited by wolves. At first, Red Foxes may have been restricted in Kansas to wooded areas east of the Flint Hills. However, they quickly spread westward along major watercourses. Today they occur in every county in Kansas and have adapted to a semi-commensal existence around human habitation. 

This species evidently originated in the Old World and did not colonize North America until the Pleistocene. It was widespread in northern North America during the Pleistocene and has been reported from dozens of local faunas. 

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 94 Total Records 
  • 83 Museum Vouchers 
  • 11 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Bourbon (1); Clay (1); Cloud (2); Cowley (1); Crawford (2); Douglas (26); Ellis (13); Finney (3); Graham (1); Grant (1); Hamilton (1); Jefferson (1); Johnson (11); Kearney (1); Leavenworth (3); Meade (7); Miami (1); Montgomery (1); Neosho (1); Ottawa (1); Phillips (1); Shawnee (5); Thomas (2); Trego (1); Wallace (1); Woodson (3);

Natural History:
The Red Fox prefers wooded habitats to open country, but it takes advantage of cropland, urban environments, and sparce, brushy or wooded habitats so long as prey are available. They are nocturnal predators, but their activity may begin as early as two hours before dark, and continue until four hours after dawn. During midday red foxes return to their denning area. They construct their dens during late winter in loose, well-drained soils, often on hillsides in or near heavy brush or woodlands but sometimes in areas as open as cemeteries and parks. Dens may be built by the foxes themselves, or may be enlarged versions of dens previously constructed by other mammals. Dens may have several openings (up to 20 have been recorded), and the tunnels extend one or more meters below ground to a grass-lined nest. Red Foxes are highly mobile, sometimes traveling as much as 10 km in a day, although they normally confine their activities to an area of 8 to 10 square kilometers. After they are bred, females restrict their activities to areas adjacent to the dens, and for several weeks after pups are born, the parents remain within 1 km of the den. During late winter home ranges are larger, presumably because of a decrease in available food. 

In the wild, Red Foxes may live as long as 8 or 9 years although a 6-year old is an old fox. 

The Red Fox has a varied diet. Rodents and rabbits comprise most of the diet, but Red Foxes also eat fruits, berries, insects, ground nesting birds, and carrion. Coyotes, pumas, bobcats, and domestic dogs are the most important predators on red foxes. Other causes of mortality include trapping, shooting, and highway traffic. 

The Red Fox is seasonally monogamous. They potentially breed from December through April, although most matings take place in January and February. After breeding, the female prepares one or more dens within her home range before the young are born. Gestation lasts 52 days, and from 1 to 12 (normally 3 to 6) pups are born with their eyes closed. Their eyes open in about a week. While the pups are young, the male provides food for both them and the female. The young first leave the den at 4 to 5 weeks of age, and they are weaned at 8 to 10 weeks. Usually before weaning the young are moved one or more times to new dens sites. After 10 weeks, pups begin to accompany the parents on hunting trips. At four months, the pups' permanent dentition is present, and they begin to forage for themselves within the parental home range. Young disperse in the autumn when they are nearly adult size. After dispersal in the autumn, Red Foxes are primarily solitary until they pair again in the breeding season.

Occurrence Activity:
Red Foxes are highly susceptible to rabies, distemper, hepatitis, and mange, which act to keep population densities from increasing to high levels.

The subspecies recognized in Kansas is Vulpes vulpes regalis.

1952 Cockrum, E. L. Mammals of Kansas. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 7:1-303. ():
1963 Stanley, W. C. Habits of the red fox in northeastern Kansas. Univ. Kansas Mus. Nat. Hist. Misc. Publ., 34:1-31. ():
1985 Zumbaugh, D. M., and J. R. Choate Historical biogeography of foxes in Kansas Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Sciences 88(1-2):1-13
1996 Lariviere, S., and M. Pasitschniak-Arts Vulpes vulpes Mammalian Species 537():1-11
2008 Timm, R. M., G. R. Pisani, J. R. Choate, N. A. Slade, G. A. Kaufman, and D. W. Kaufman, . pp.
Account Last Updated:
11/19/2019 1:51:12 PM

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