A Smart Foxy Creature
By Richard Gambino
Of all the wildlife in the Greenbelt, none is as fabled as the red fox. We say of a person, “He’s wily or clever as a fox.” Or using irony, we say, “Oh yeah, he’s as dumb as a fox,” when we mean just the opposite. And we call seductive women “foxy.” The red fox is so good at adapting itself to different environments that it is found worldwide. In England, folks have experienced how smart these creatures are from fox hunting. During a hunt, in which hound dogs chase down a fox’s scent, while people on horses chase after the dogs, a fox being chased sometimes will lead the entire hunting party around in a great oval. As the oval is closed, the smell of the horses blots out the scent of the fox, and, as they say, “The trail is lost.” In fact, the red fox’s intelligence has made it so successful in surviving, that it has no need for camouflage, and both catch its food and eludes its enemies (like the human hunters in England), despite its bright red color.
As nature photographers will tell you, it’s hard to photograph a fox, which usually keeps out of sight and watches us. So a great photo taken by Jean Dodds, FLPG Secretary, on January 20th near Black Pond is remarkable. It is of a very pretty fox relaxing in bright sunlight, gazing at us with alluring eyes. My guess is that the creature was being foxy so as to size up Jean, to determine if she was dangerous — or perhaps if she could be used. A fox, which is omnivorous, will sometimes surreptitiously follow another animal to be led to food, be the food live prey (let’s say young creatures in a nest), or tasty plants. It’s not easy to outfox a fox.
Red Fox Facts
- Foxes are members of the dog family, Canidae, like domestic dogs and coyotes. tracks
- When the red fox is running, its tail is held horizontally behind the animal.
- Red foxes weigh on average 10 to 11 pounds, and measure between 39 and 43 inches long, including the tail. Males are slightly heavier and generally larger than females.
- Red foxes may partially bury, or cache, excess food, cover it with soil, grass, leaves, or snow, and mark it with urine.
- Females give birth to a litter averaging 4 or 5 pups after a gestation period of 51 to 53 days.
- Most foxes have more than 1 den and will readily move their young if disturbed.
- Pups stay in the den until they are about 4 to 5 weeks of age.
- Both adults care for the young by bringing food and guarding the den site.
- Outside the breeding season, most red foxes favor living in the open, in densely vegetated areas, though they may enter burrows to escape bad weather.
- Red foxes tend to be solitary, usually hunting alone. They can be active at any time of day, but appear to hunt most often during dawn and dusk.
- It is not unusual to observe foxes during the daytime. They remain active all year and do not hibernate.
- The normal home range for a fox is about 2 to 4 square miles, but it may vary depending on the abundance of food.