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
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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Update: June 2012