The common fox is one of the most popular characters from fairy tales, closely associated with Slavic mythology. Many people associate this beast with deceit and cunning. It is familiar to every person since early childhood. But not everyone can boast of real knowledge about the natural habits, natural features of such an animal as an ordinary fox. And this is a rather interesting, unusual predator!
Species origin and description
The common fox is a predatory mammal. It belongs to the canine family. The name comes from the Old Slavonic adjective “fox”. It meant red, yellowish color. It is he who is most characteristic of this animal. The dog family is quite large. Only some foxes, it has more than fifty subspecies. This figure does not include the smallest forms of this predator.
The common fox is the largest representative of its kind. The weight of such a predator can reach ten kilograms. The length of the animal, together with the tail, usually does not exceed one hundred and fifty centimeters. The fox is famous for its bushy, long tail. It not only decorates it, but also performs a useful function – it serves as a kind of stabilizer while running. In winter, the tail protects the fox from the cold while sleeping.
Fun fact: Foxes share many traits with domestic cats. The peak of activity of these animals occurs at night, they have excellent eyesight, similar hunting tactics, a rough tongue and protruding claws.
Common foxes are a valuable predator species. They are of high economic importance. Such animals act as a supplier of furs, are natural regulators of the number of rodents, small and medium-sized insects. However, it is foxes that bring great harm to humans. They can hunt poultry, they are the main carrier of rabies, a dangerous and incurable disease.
Appearance and features
The fox is famous for its attractive, very interesting appearance, soft and beautiful fur. This is a rather large predator, the weight of which can reach ten kilograms, and the body length is ninety centimeters. The tail of the animal has a length of forty to sixty centimeters. Its length will depend on the subspecies of the animal.
Common foxes have a strong jaw. In total, the animal has forty-two teeth, which can easily cope with almost any food. The predator has characteristic ears: triangular, slightly elongated, rather large. There is a sharp tip at the tip of the ears.
Video: Common fox
The vision of the beast is excellent. They are well oriented in the area even in the dead of night. But, oddly enough, when moving and hunting, foxes are used to relying not on sight, but on other senses: smell, touch. They have excellent hearing and a very sensitive nose.
The coat color of representatives of this genus may differ from each other. Foxes are red, yellowish, black-brown. Their coat is quite thick and dense. It is highly valued among people not only for its performance, but also for its appearance. Such fur looks spectacular.
An interesting fact: All subspecies of the common fox, regardless of size and region of residence, have common features in appearance. All animals have dark colored ears and a white-tipped tail.
The summer fur of foxes is very short and sparse. Winter is more appreciated by people. It is thick and lush. The molting of these predators takes place from February to July. After this, the period of growth of winter fur begins. By November, the chanterelles are fully dressed in their winter coat.
Where does the red fox live?
The natural habitat of common foxes is quite wide. These animals live throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, North America. It was introduced and acclimatized in Australia. Now such an animal has spread throughout almost the entire continent. The exceptions are the territories located in the north. About fifteen subspecies of this predator live in Europe, and more than thirty in other countries.
In the above countries, foxes are found in all landscape and geographical zones. They feel great in the tundra, steppe, desert, mountains, subtropical forests. At the same time, they easily adapt to different climatic conditions. An exception may be only areas with very high humidity. The population density of animals in geographical areas is completely different.
Interesting fact: Despite the high adaptability of foxes, more of them were seen in the forest-steppe, steppe zones. They prefer open areas, despite the myth that such animals live exclusively in dense forest.
Most of the population of these predators lives in the wild. However, more and more often foxes can be found near villages, cities, towns. Solitary individuals have even been seen by people in the central parts of large metropolitan areas. Foxes perfectly adapted to such conditions. They find their food in parks, basements of residential buildings, in city dumps, in agricultural buildings.
What does the red fox eat?
Foxes are typical predators. However, their diet is wider. According to scientists, the diet of adults includes more than four hundred types of animal food and several dozen varieties of plant food.
However, most often foxes eat the following food:
- Small rodents. They can be called the basis of the nutrition of these animals. Basically, foxes prey on mice and voles. Scientists note that the state of the fox population in a particular region depends on the number and availability of small rodents;
- Zaitsev. They are less likely to fall prey to predators. Only some subspecies hunt hares and hares with particular tenacity. And during pestilence, a predator can even feast on the corpses of these small animals;
- Birds. These animals are not as important for the life of chanterelles as rodents. But the common fox will never miss an opportunity to catch and eat a bird for lunch. The beast attacks the birds when they are on the ground. Chicks that have fallen out of nests and eggs become easy prey for predators. In starvation conditions, foxes can attack domestic birds. They steal them right out of the sheds;
- Insects. An ordinary fox can eat large beetles, their larvae. She will not disdain even dead insects;
- Plant food. It does not play a key role in the nutrition of the animal. Foxes rarely eat plant foods: fruits, fruits, berries, various roots.
Character and lifestyle features
The most favorite time of day for common foxes is night. They hunt at dusk and prefer to rest in their burrows during the day. However, there are separate subspecies that can spend time looking for food during the day and sleep at night. The burrows of foxes are very long and have several separate chambers. Animals break through them in the hills, slopes of ravines. The main purpose of the burrows is shelter from danger and a home for future offspring.
A female can give birth to about six cubs at a time. They live with their mother in one of the cells. For safety, females make holes with several exits. This enables the animal and its offspring to escape in case of danger. Thus, for example, foxes are saved from hunting dogs.
Interesting fact: Unlike many other mammals, foxes do not stray in packs. They prefer a solitary lifestyle. Adult individuals can exist together only for the breeding season. Immediately after fertilization, the female and male separate.
The fox is a very cautious, peaceful animal. She doesn't get into a fight unnecessarily. Fights between animals happen only during the mating season and as a result of the “sharing” of the territory. An animal tries to avoid a person, rarely when it shows itself in front of its eyes. Despite the caution of foxes, they are characterized by a special curiosity. These animals will explore any interesting thing that gets in their way.
Social structure and reproduction
The mating season for an ordinary fox has the following features:
- Lasts only a few months: from January to March;
- Males can arrange small fights for females. However, the winner is not the strongest, but the smartest. Also during the mating season, these animals dance an unusual dance. They stand on their hind legs and walk one after another for a long time;
- At one time, the female can reproduce up to six cubs. Very rarely there are more than ten individuals in a litter. In children, the ears are completely closed, there is no vision. They begin to see and hear only after the first two weeks;
- The cubs consume mother's milk for only a month and a half. Then they begin to get used to eating meat;
- Both parents feed the growing offspring. They have to get food almost throughout the day;
- A couple of months after birth, the cubs can leave the burrow on their own. Young individuals can be found quite far from their homes and parents. It is then that they become victims of other, larger predators;
- Independent foxes become closer to autumn. At this time, they can leave their mother's house and build their lives. Sexual maturity comes to 1.5 years. At the same time, males mature much later.
Natural enemies of common foxes
Previously, the main enemy of foxes were people. Hunters indiscriminately shot these predators. This was done in order to exclude the possibility of the formation of a focus of rabies. Today, this problem is not so acute due to the existence of an oral vaccine. The invention of the drug helped to significantly reduce the incidence of mammals. It also eliminated the need for a complete shooting of adults.
Shooting of common foxes has indeed decreased. However, these animals still suffer at the hands of man. Many people hunt foxes for their own fun, excitement. Many adult animals die from traps set for other predators.
Among animals, foxes are often attacked by wolves and other predators that surpass them in size and strength. Lynxes, wolverines, bears will never refuse to eat a fox or its offspring. Stoats, ferrets and even badgers pose a certain mortal danger to chanterelles. Species living in the East are dying from the paws of tigers.
Young and small subspecies of the common fox suffer from attacks by large birds of prey. They are killed by eagles, falcons, hawks, eagles. But in general, foxes are not easy prey. These animals are quite cunning, fast and excellent tree climbers.
Population and species status
To date, there is no accurate data on the number of common foxes. However, it is known that the population of these predators is quite high. But, unfortunately, it tends to fluctuate.
The following factors influence fluctuations in the number of foxes:
- Meteorological and climatic conditions in their natural habitat;
- Number and availability of small rodents;
- Prevalence of infectious diseases.
During severe frosts or droughts, the level of female fertility drops, a smaller percentage of offspring survive to maturity. In such conditions, the risk of various diseases increases. From one rabies or plague in the region, several dozens or even hundreds of foxes can die almost simultaneously.
Despite the existing difficulties, the population of common foxes is sufficient throughout the natural range. This predator is not included in the Red Book, it is not classified as a conservation mammal, and the status of the species is stable and causes the least concern. In the wild, foxes can live up to seven years. However, the percentage of such animals is very small. Often these predators die before they even reach the age of three. In captivity, the animal lives several times longer. On average, about twenty years.
The common fox is a very interesting, beautiful animal. It is of great economic importance. It has very valuable fur, and the animal itself can be safely called a natural regulator of the rodent population. Foxes are distributed almost all over the planet, easily adapting to various climatic conditions.