Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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The Red Fox
Nature Bulletin No. 108   March 22, 1947
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

The red fox has been described as the best-loved and most hated, wisest, smelliest, daintiest, thinnest, sleekest, most flea-bitten and controversial animal in America. In some sections of the country where he is hunted by packs of hounds while their owners sit around a camp fire all night long, listening to the music of the chase, and in others where they follow the hounds on horseback at breakneck speed, the quickest way to earn the hatred of your neighbors is to kill a fox. In others there are organized fox drives and they are shot as killers of game birds and the farmer's poultry. Also, he is trapped for his valuable fur. But he survives and there are many foxes in Cook County. Tracks in the snow show that one comes to within 50 feet of our back door. Few people ever see one.

The red fox is a small member of the dog family, standing from 14 to 16 inches high at the shoulder and weighing from 7 to 12 lbs., with a long nose, pointed ears and a long bushy tail. The legs and ears are black; the cheeks, underparts and tip of the tail are white; the rest of his fur is brightly colored with autumn-toned shades of pinkish red, burnt orange and tawny yellow. Being very lean and narrow-chested, his footprints are almost in a straight line. They yap frequently in short squalls ending in a long gargling sound. Rarely, one may yowl much like a bobcat.

The dog fox and the vixen mate for life. The young, usually four or five in number, are born about the last of March in a den which is frequently the enlarged burrow of a woodchuck. After the pups are weaned, foxes spend the rest of the year, including winter, in the open. They prefer hilly partly-wooded country, usually avoiding tall grass, heavy weed growth, tangled brush and briars, and swampy ground. They love to sit on an open knoll, listening and sniffing the wind. Probably 90% of their food is rabbits and mice Fruit and acorns, insects, and other small mammals such as shrews and squirrels, in that order are the other food items most commonly eaten. Investigations show that relatively few chickens or game birds are taken. However, the fox is omnivorous and what he eats depends mostly on what is available.

So shut your chicken-house door; Richard.

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