Foxes are part of the Canidae family, which means they’ re related to wolves, jackals, and dogs. But unlike their relatives, foxes are not pack animals. The red fox is the most common fox in Britain. There are thought to be 33,000 urban foxes in the UK with large populations in London, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. They live in family groups – one dog, one vixen and cubs. Females from other litters will often help raise the cubs. Females give birth between March and May. Litter sizes can be between 4 and 7 cubs. Foxes are usually shy creatures but now increasingly becoming less afraid of humans in urban areas. Urban Fox diet consists of natural prey and scavenged meat and may cover only 55% of the diet. Insects and worms add a hefty 20%, fruit –7%, with household leftovers making up the remaining 18%.
Foxes will not vacate their territory easily and problems with scent marking and faeces may get worse before they get better. Foxes will increase their scent marking if their territory is threatened. Most fox ‘ nuisance’ experienced by people in urban and suburban areas falls into three categories; digging, fouling and noise. These are all aspects of natural fox behaviour. Depending on time of year and location, digging may be to establish a breeding earth, a bolthole, and a route from A to B or simply to locate insect and invertebrate prey. Fouling, whilst a natural function in itself is also a means of marking territory. For the same reason a pet dog urinates against every tree it passes, a fox creates ‘ signposts’ for the information of other animals, often using dominant features such as drainpipes, wall corners or even garden gnomes!
Foxes live in small families called a “leash of foxes” or a “skulk of foxes”—in underground burrows. They will reproduce once a year with litters ranging from 1 to 11 pups (the average of six), which are born blind and don’ t open their eyes until nine days after birth. The mating season begins in January when the screeching mating cries can be heard during the night and the early hours. The litter of cubs is born around late March, and the cubs remain exclusively inside the den for about six to eight weeks. Dens become abandoned by June/July, when the cubs will begin to learn how to forage for food. By September the cubs will be just about fully grown, and in late October they leave the family to set up their own territory, often nearby.
Life Span: Average only 18 months to 2 years in the wild
Weight: Dogs, 5.9kg, Vixens, 5.2kg
Habitat: Very varied
Range: Across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the steppes of Asia.
Its range has increased alongside human expansion.
Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes
When one considers over half the fox population dies each year it becomes apparent there is always plenty of vacant territory to absorb dispersing juveniles. Pups stay with the vixen (female) in the den while the dog (male) brings them food. They live with their parents until they’ re seven months old. The vixen protects her pups with surprising loyalty. Recently in the UK, a fox pup was caught in a trap for two weeks, but survived because its mother brought it food every day Foxes can live for about 12 to 15 years, but life expectancy in urban areas is much shorter and most foxes survive for about two to three years. Foxes are not and never have been classified as ‘ vermin’ , so local authorities have no legal obligation to act against them.
• Unlike popular belief, foxes are more related to dogs than cats with foxes being the only dogs capable of retracting it claws.
• Like a guided missile, the fox harnesses the earth’s magnetic field to hunt. Other animals, like birds, sharks, and turtles, have this “magnetic sense,” but the fox is the first one we’ve discovered that uses it to catch prey.
• Although foxes are wild animals, their relationship with humans goes way back. In 2011, researchers opened a grave in a 16,500-year-old cemetery in Jordan to find the remains of a man and his pet fox. This was 4000 years before the first-known human and dog were buried together.
• According to Scientists, the fox can see the earth’s magnetic field as a “ring of shadow” on its eyes that darkens as it heads towards magnetic north. When the shadow and the sound the prey is making line up, it’s time to pounce.