By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid
Welcome back, Wild Things! Since we have been working on our fox adaptation program, we thought it would be fun to share some facts about foxes and what makes various vulpine species unique.
- There are six major fox species in North America (excluding subspecies and admixtures): the Red Fox, Arctic Fox, Kit Fox, Swift Fox, Channel Island Fox and Gray Fox
- Red Foxes are the longest foxes in the world and Fennec Foxes are the shortest. From nose to tail, Red Foxes are usually between 30 to 56 inches long (762 – 1,422.40 mm), whereas Fennec Foxes are typically 17 to 28 inches long (431.80 – 711.20 mm).
- Generally speaking, a fox’s tail is ¾ the length of its body. In other words, a fox with a body length of 20 inches would have a tail that is 15 inches long. Obvious, length and size vary depending on the species, the fox’s age and its sex, but most foxes’ tails are long and serve as blankets for the foxes to wrap around themselves to stay warm while they sleep.
- Red Foxes are well adapted to a variety of environments. In fact, they will live in cities and urban areas where people live and take advantage of the free meals our trash cans provide!
- Foxes will stash excess food underground for safekeeping. To keep other animals away from the food, and in order to find it later, the fox will mark its cache by urinating over the buried pile.
- Red Foxes are the most common species of fox on the planet
- Red Foxes have a lot of stamina to hunt prey and avoid predators. They can run up to 30 mph!
- Because Arctic Foxes live in cold, barren locations, they are physically adapted to their environments. They have white fur to blend in with snow, which camouflages them from prey and predators alike.
- Arctic Foxes also have round, compact bodies to minimize their exposure to cold air. Their short muzzles, ears and legs conserve heat, and their deep, thick fur allows them to maintain a consistent body temperature. They even have thick fur on their paws that allows them to walk on snow and ice.
- The Arctic Fox is Iceland’s only native land animal
- Arctic Foxes have lighter weight brown fur coats in summer that, again, allow them to be camouflaged in their surroundings
- Foxes get the jump on their prey! They use their ears to locate the precise position of their prey, which is sometimes underground. When they hear the prey, they will leap into the air and pounce, breaking through any soil or snow to land right onto the prey underneath. Arctic Fox Pounces For Prey, via Discovery
- Foxes will change their diets with the season in order to survive. They are opportunistic eaters, and will eat animals and plants. They will also scavenge for other animals’ leftovers.
- Foxes are typically nocturnal. They evade predators and have an edge over their prey this way! Their speed, sense of sight and hearing give them an advantage.
- Kit Foxes, which live in warm desert regions, are named in reference to their size. Fox babies are called “kits,” “pups” and “cubs.” Kit Foxes are called such because they are small. They have slender bodies, large heads, large ears, long tails and bushy fur
- Kit Foxes only weigh around 4 pounds!
- Kit Foxes big ears act as cooling vents, releasing excess heat from their bodies through the veins
- Kit Foxes will occasionally come out during the day, which makes people more likely to see these guys around
- Kit Foxes mate annually. Sometimes, they will keep the same partner, but they will often pick a new one each year.
- Kit Foxes do establish territories, but they are not as protective of them as other fox species. It is common for Kit Foxes to share hunting ground with other Kits, but they will hunt at different times of the day or night.
- Swift Foxes are named for their speed. They can reach speeds of 31 mph, which allows them to catch fast prey and escape predators
- The Swift Fox lives in the Great Plains region, between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Swifts can be found as far North as Canada, and have historically lived in Western Canada.
- Swift Foxes hunt mostly at night, when it’s cooler out. This way, they won’t easily overheat from strenuous exercise. They usually only go out during the day to sun themselves, and only during winter.
- Swift Foxes build several entrances to their underground burrows, which are up to 13 feet deep, so they can avoid being cornered by predators. When Swifts hunt at night, they don’t stray far from their den, in case they need to scurry back to safety.
- Swift Foxes prefer open desert and short-or-mixed grass prairies, generally avoiding dense areas of vegetation. They live in cropland habitats such as wheat fields and ranch areas.
- Swift Foxes can survive high on hilltops or down in valleys, as long as they can dig burrows that won’t be exposed to environmental threats like flooding.
- Channel Island Foxes live on six of the eight Channel Islands in California. Because the foxes are specially adapted to their specific islands, each island has a distinct species, meaning there are six species of Channel Island Foxes.
- Channel Island Foxes are offshoots of Gray Foxes, which is why they look similar. Channel Island Foxes are smaller than Gray Foxes, though
- Channel Island Foxes get fish not by hunting but, rather, by scavenging for leftovers in bald eagles’ nests.
- Channel Island Foxes have long legs, which help them to run fast, sneak up on prey and escape predators. In fact, their legs are the longest part of their bodies.
- Channel Island Foxes turn their paws inward to climb, which helps them get fruit and birds to eat and, again, lets them escape predators.
- Gray Foxes are the only species of fox, excluding the Channel Island Fox, that can climb trees! They do so to escape predators like coyotes and wolves. They take advantage of this ability to hunt tree prey, such as squirrels
- Gray Foxes are incredibly nervous around people. Therefore, unlike the Red Fox, the Gray Fox rarely enters urban areas.
- Gray Foxes are gray, white, black, and russet, or reddish-brown. They blend into their woodland habitats, which camouflages them to predators and prey alike.
- Fennec Foxes are the smallest fox species in the world. They are native to North Africa, are less than 5 pounds and only about 2 feet long from nose to tail!
- Fennec Foxes are nocturnal, since the North African deserts are HOT! The deserts get ridiculously cold at night, though, so the Fennecs have thick fur to keep them warm when they’re out on the prowl.
- Fennec Foxes have massive ears. They can get as long as 6 inches, which is about ¼ of their total body length. These ears let them ear bugs and rodents that are underground, which Fennecs love to eat. Their ears also provide extra body surface area, which reduces the little guys’ body heat and keeps them cool!
- Fennecs have thick, sandy fur that reflects sunlight and keeps them cool if they must go out during the day. Fur also covers the bottoms of their feet, preventing the hot sand from burning their little toes. The fur on their soles also provides traction, so they fox can easily run on loose sand and quickly dig burrows.
- Fennec Foxes’ kidneys retain water to prevent dehydration, since deserts have little to no free water. These foxes can survive for long periods on only the moisture from what they eat, and possibly from dew that collects on the insides of their burrows.
Until next time: keep your wild side roaring.
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Arctic Foxes – http://www.defenders.org/arctic-fox/basic-facts
Kit Foxes – http://www.foxesworlds.com/kit-fox/
Swift Foxes – http://animals.mom.me/adaptations-swift-fox-9268.html
Channel Island Foxes – http://www1.islandfox.org/p/about-island-fox.html?m=1