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 PREDATOR - The Red Fox

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PostSubject: PREDATOR - The Red Fox   Sat May 05, 2018 1:10 am


The Red Fox


The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the largest of true foxes, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America and the steppes of Asia. Apart from its large size, the red fox is distinguished from other fox species by its ability to adapt quickly to new environments. Despite its name, the species often produces individuals with other colorings, including albinos and melanists. Red foxes are usually together in pairs or small groups consisting of families, such as a mated pair and their young, or a male with several females having kinship ties. The young of the mated pair remain with their parents to assist in caring for new kits.

Conservation status

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Vulpes
Species: vulpes

Binomial name
Vulpes vulpes

Range

Behavior
The red fox is active during all seasons, and most of its activity takes place at night or at twilight, but occasionally during daylight. Foraging during the day is more frequent when adults are hunting food for their young. This species swims well, but most of its travel is on land along well-defined trails. The normal manner of locomotion is by walking or trotting, but for brief periods a red fox can run, attaining a speed of about 42 km/h (26 mph).

Physical characteristics
Red foxes have elongated bodies and relatively short limbs. The tail, which is longer than half the body length, is long, fluffy, and reaches the ground when in a standing position. Their pupils are oval and vertically oriented. The forepaws have five digits, while the hind feet have only four and lack dewclaws. They are very agile, being capable of jumping over 2 meter high fences and swim well.

On average, adults measure 35–50 cm (14–20 in) high at the shoulder and 45 to 90 cm (18 to 35 in) in body length with tails measuring 30 to 63 in (76 to 160 cm). They weigh 2.2 to 14 kg (4.9 to 31 lb), with vixens typically weighing 15–20% less than males. They have large, pointed, and triangular ears. The winter fur is dense, soft, silky, and long. In northern foxes, the fur is very long, dense and fluffy, but is shorter, sparser and coarser in southern forms. Among northern foxes, the North American varieties generally have the silkiest guard hairs, while mostEurasian red foxes have coarser fur. There are three color morphs; red, silver/black, and cross.

In the typical red morph, their coats are generally bright reddish-rusty with yellowish tints. A darker stripe of brown-reddish-chestnut hairs occurs along the spine. Two additional stripes pass down the shoulder blades which, together with the spinal stripe, form a cross. The lower back is often a mottled silvery colour. The flanks are lighter-colored than the back, while the chin, lips, throat, and front of the chest are white. The remaining lower surface of the body is dark, brown or reddish. During lactation, the belly fur of vixens may turn brick red. The upper parts of the limbs are rusty-reddish, while the paws are black. The backs of the ears are black, while the inside surface is white. The top of the tail is lighter in color than the back and flanks and the tip of the tail is white. A black spot, the location of the supracaudal gland, is usually present at the base of the tail.

Hunting and diet
Red foxes are omnivores with a highly varied diet. They primarily feed on small, mouse-like rodents like voles, mice, ground squirrels, hamsters, gerbils, woodchucks, pocket gophers and deer mice. Secondary prey species include birds (with passeriformes, galliformes and waterfowl predominating), rabbits, porcupines, raccoons, opossums, reptiles, insects, other invertebrates and flotsam (marine mammals, fish and echinoderms). On very rare occasions, they may attack young or small ungulates. They typically target mammals up to about 3.5 kg in weight, and require 500 grams of food daily. Red foxes will readily eat plant material and in some areas, fruit can amount to 100% of their diet in autumn. Commonly consumed fruits include blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, persimmons, mulberries, apples, plums, grapes and acorns. Other plant material includes grasses, sedges and tubers.

They typically only feed on carrion in the late evening hours and at night. They are extremely possessive of their food, and will defend their catches from even dominant animals. Red foxes seem to dislike the taste of moles, but will nonetheless catch them alive and present them to their kids as playthings.


Social structure and home range
Red foxes either establish stable home ranges within particular areas or are wanderers with no fixed abode. They use their urine to mark their territories. Urine is also used to mark empty cache sites, as reminders not to waste time investigating them. Red foxes live in family groups sharing a joint territory. Like a cat, the fox's thick tail aids its balance, but it has other uses as well. A fox uses its tail (or "brush") as a warm cover in cold weather and as a signal flag to communicate with other foxes.

In favorable habitats and/or areas with low hunting pressure, subordinate foxes may be present in a range. Subordinate foxes may number 1-2, sometimes up to 8 in one territory. These subordinates could be formerly dominant animals, but are mostly young from the previous year, who act as helpers in rearing the breeding vixen's kits. Alternatively, their presence has been explained as being in response to temporary surpluses of food unrelated to assisting reproductive success. Non-breeding vixens will guard, play, groom, provision and retrieve kits, an example of kin selection. Red foxes may leave their families once they reach adulthood if the chances of winning a territory of their own are high. If not, they will stay with their parents, at the cost of postponing their own reproduction.


Reproduction and life cycle
Red foxes reproduce once a year in spring. Though foxes are largely monogamous, DNA evidence from one population indicated large levels of polygyny, incest and mixed paternity litters. Subordinate vixens may become pregnant, but usually fail to whelp, or have their kits killed postpartum by either the dominant female or other subordinates.

The average litter size consists of four to six kits, though litters of up to 13 kits have occurred. Large litters are typical in areas where fox mortality is high. Kits are born blind, deaf, and toothless, with fluffy dark brown fur. At birth, they weigh 56–110 g (2.0–3.9 oz) and measure 14.5 cm (5.7 in) in body length and 7.5 cm (3.0 in) in tail length. At birth, they are short-legged, large-headed and have broad chests. Mothers remain with the kits for 2-3 weeks, as they are unable to thermoregulate. During this period, the fathers or barren vixens feed the mothers. Vixens are very protective of their kits, and have been known to even fight off terriers in their defense. If the mother dies before the kits are independent, the father takes over as their provider.

The kits' eyes are initially blue, but change to amber at 4–5 weeks. Coat color begins to change at three weeks of age, when the black eye streak appears. By one month, red and white patches are apparent on their faces. During this time, their ears erect and their muzzles elongate. Kits begin to leave their dens and experiment with solid food brought by their parents at the age of 3–4 weeks. The lactation period lasts 6–7 weeks. By the age of 3–4 months, the kits are long-legged, narrow-chested and sinewy. They reach adult proportions at the age of 6–7 months. Some vixens may reach sexual maturity at the age of 9–10 months, thus bearing their first litters at one year of age.

In captivity, their longevity can be as long as 15 years, though in the wild they typically do not survive past 5 years of age.

Distribution and habitat
Red foxes live around the world in many diverse habitats including forests, grasslands, mountains, and deserts. They also adapt well to human environments such as farms,suburban areas, and even large communities. The red fox's resourcefulness has earned it a legendary reputation for intelligence and cunning.


Wolf vs Red Fox
Foxes, like coyotes, weasels, and bears, will scavenge off of wolf kills. Many other species also rely somewhat on food gained from wolf kills. These include eagles, gulls, grey jays, blue jays, stellar's jays, red squirrels, deer mice, black-capped chickadees, boreal chickadees, and bobcats. Wolves will sometimes raid food caches that a fox has prepared, and wolves will also take over old fox dens. Wolves often ignore foxes, since foxes do not compete with wolves for food as foxes hunt much smaller animals than wolves do. However, wolves will chase away, and possibly catch, injure and kill, a fox that was caught feeding on its kill. Most foxes are fast and alert enough to get away from the wolves first. Although it is rare, wolves have been known to prey on red foxes.


Originally from STP

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