The Crestone Eagle, November 2008:

Meet the fox: a small, omnivorous canid—& our wild neighbor

by Keno

There are 27 species of fox in the world, with 4 species of foxes found in the state of Colorado. The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is found in canyons and along foothills in the state. The tiny swift fox (Vulpes velox) is limited to the eastern plains of Colorado, and its near relative, the kit fox (Vulpes macrotis), live in the semi-desert shrub lands extending from Montrose to Grand Junction.

Here in Crestone, usually only the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is found, with anywhere from 35 to 50 of them living in our area. The red fox also lives throughout the state, and they are the most widespread foxes found around the world, being on almost every continent.

Foxes are generally smaller than other members of the family Canidae, such as wolves, jackals, and domestic dogs. Red and gray foxes are 3’ long and weigh 9 to 11 pounds. Swift and kit foxes are only 27” to 36” long; their tails are as long as their bodies. They weigh 4 to 7 pounds. On average male foxes (dogs) weigh about a pound more than female foxes (vixens).

Most foxes live for only 2 to 3 years, but they can survive for up to 10 years or so in captivity. Unlike most other canids, foxes are usually not pack animals; typically they are solitary. Foxes have a very keen sense of smell, excellent hearing, and good vision. They can run at speeds of 30 mph and are good swimmers.

Foxes are opportunistic feeders that hunt live prey. They eat rodents, grasshoppers, birds (especially chickens), and also different fruit and berries. Foxes are known to cache their food, burying the excess for later consumption. Unlike our local coyotes, foxes are not as likely to take your pet cat, but if they are hungry enough—they might. Like many of our other local wildlife, if you are not careful, you will attract foxes to your home. Garbage that is not securely stored provides an easy meal for these scavengers.

All Coloradan foxes produce a single litter of young per year. Gestation periods range from 7 to 8 weeks with litter sizes averaging around four. A typical home range for a red fox is five to ten square miles. Males travel farther than females, but juveniles dispersing from their parents will often travel the farthest. Adult red fox will typically stay within a mile of their den while they are raising pups.

Red fox are active both day and night, but are most so at dawn and dusk. They are very vocal, especially during the breeding season. The most commonly misinterpreted sounds produced by them are screeching yowls that can sound like a domestic cat fight. Barking and yipping are also common. Although fox do howl, the sound is quite different from coyote howling. Chances are you’ve heard their howl and mistaken it for a funny-sounding dog.

Foxes are extremely wary of humans and cannot be kept as pets. However, they do adapt reasonably well to human presence. If a red fox acts aggressively, it may be an indication that it is sick. Any red fox that appears to be sick or is acting aggressively should be reported to our local Division of Wildlife office. Landowners wishing to shoot red fox need to be aware of local and state laws. The hunting of red fox on public land requires a Colorado small game license.

Editors note: Families of red fox live in the town of Crestone and in the Baca, often close to residences. Be aware of our furry little neighbors and help protect their habitat. Young kits are especially vulnerable, and loose dogs present a hazard to their safety.