About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Red Fox in the neighborhood

We've had Red foxes being reported in the suburbs behind the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. 

Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) can be found in every county in Michigan but are especially common in areas with meadows, bushy fence lines, streams and low shrubby woods. They might also be found in suburban areas where food is available readily.

They are nocturnal and eat mostly mice, voles, shrews, rabbits, squirrels, insects, and fruit. This helps control populations of rodents and rabbits as well as disperses fruit seeds. They will also clean carrion off the roads. Foxes will eat about 2 pounds a day and cache any extra food for later.

Their fluffy fur makes them look heavier than they are actually. Red foxes weigh 4 to 31 lb, with vixens (females) weighing typically 15–20% less than males. They resemble small dogs around two feet long with a long, bushy tail around 15 inches. Their upper parts are reddish and they have a white, ashy underside. The lower part of their legs is usually black and their tail has a white tip.

Courtship usually occurs during the winter months when a female may be followed by one or more courting males and selects a single male with which she makes a firm bond. Then the pair works together to prepare a nursery den where the female gives birth after 51 - 53 days to a litter of an average of five pups. Just before and for a time after giving birth the female remains in or around the den. The male partner will provide food for his mate but does not go into the maternity den.

Pups can be born as early as February and as late as late-May. They are born helpless and covered with gray-brown, fuzzy fur, but still possess the characteristic white-tipped tail. Red fox males and females, and sometimes their older offspring, cooperate to care for the pups.

At about 10 days the pups open their eyes, at 20 days they venture from the den, and at 60 days they are weaned. At this time, the adults bring food to the den for the pups. The pups are nearly full-grown and are actively hunting on their own at 4 months.

Male pups begin to venture further from the den site first and disperse into new territory in the fall and winter, typically October to January. The pups are fully grown by winter and are able to mate and reproduce but young females may choose to postpone their leaving mom for another year.

Adult Red foxes are solitary animals and do not form packs like wolves. Individual home ranges vary in size depending on the quality of the habitat. In good areas ranges may be between 3 to 8 miles. Red foxes have been known to live 10 to 12 years in captivity but live on average 3 years in the wild.

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1 comment:

pjwould said...

An adult red fox visited my Okemos backyard one day last spring about 9:30 a.m.! I was transfixed. No time to take a pic.

~Priscilla