Foxes are among the most attractive and adaptable of all animals even despite the unfair reputation for being scoundrels. Foxes are members of the dog family although dogs are social animals which live and hunt in packs and foxes are solitary by nature. Dogs rely on their eyesight and speed and foxes rely on their noses and ears as well as their cunning and stealth.
Foxes of one kind or another are found in most parts of the world and have adapted to environmental conditions ranging from ice to snow and desert. Fox species include those from North America which is the red fox and then the European foxes, arctic fox and the bat eared fox of Africa, the Tibetan sand fox from Central Asia, the Bengal fox of Southern Asia, the Cape fox of Southern Africa and no less than 10 separate species in South America.
Wherever foxes live they can be identified by their characteristic long muzzle, large erect ears, relatively short legs and prominent bushy tail. The red fox which is found in Europe is widely distributed and is not only found throughout Europe but also in parts of Asia and North West Africa. The red fox has also been introduced into South America, Australia and New Zealand and is also being raised on farms to supply the fur trade.
The family of foxes is carnivorous and they posses numerous cat-like characteristics which actually supports the theory that both cats and dogs have both descended from the same ancient ancestral stock. Like other predators foxes live by hunting and are condemned by the human race as sly poultry thieves and scoundrel’s and due to this fable the fox has been hunted and killed mercilessly worldwide
Foxes are more than often victims of rabies which is a disease than can be transmitted to other animals as well as humans. One should avoid contact with wild foxes and should be treated with caution due to this reason. In general a healthy fox will do everything possible to avoid people. Foxes are nocturnal so most of their hunting is done at night and their days are spent underground in dens which they either dig themselves or take over other animals dens that have been abandoned. The fox’s needs are simple as they never remain in one den for very long.
In the winter months the fox grows a heavy coat to keep itself warm and in the spring this thick fur is gradually molted and looks a lot thinner in its summer coat. When autumn returns and the weather begin to get colder the coat thickens again. During this time the female which is known as vixen’s starts to clean her den out by tidying up the passageways of feathers and bones as well as other rubbish and pushes it outside. The male fox which is known as the dog fox generally shares his territory with several vixen’s.
The dog fox continuously renews his territory to make sure that his territory will be respected by other strange animals and does this by leaving excrement in exposed places such as rocks, tree stumps and mole hills. He also sprays urine on prominent places which leaves a pungent smell that even humans can smell it. The scent is especially strong during mating season which is between the months of December through to January. During this period the dog foxes are exceptionally preoccupied with marking and defending their territory.
In the evenings one can hear the fox’s rather high-pitched bark and the vixen’s screaming as they celebrate their pairing. The dog fox finds the vixen’s scent irresistible and is drawn to her as if by magic. The vixen will remain on heat for around two weeks although she is only capable of conceiving for three days. Fox’s do not pair for life and every year the dog fox has to compete for her favors again. Only the strongest and healthiest male will win which ensures that the cubs are sired by the fittest males. The weaker males are unsuccessful and do not breed. Offspring born via this system of natural selection are the strongest and the healthiest and thus have the best chances of survival.
Observing these animals in the wild is not at all easy since it is impossible to enter their dens. While conditions which animals live in zoos and wildlife parks makes it easier to observe them, animals living under conditions which are essentially artificial behave differently from those in their natural environment. If you observe the fox in its natural environment and at close quarters and observe its interesting behavior, this will enable you to follow the trail of the fox and understand this amazing animals needs.