Irish Species: Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

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Red Fox

The red fox is one of the most common Irish mammals. It has the largest geographical range of any of the order Carnivora, occupying most of the Northern Hemisphere. They are an extremely versatile and adaptable animal, and thrive in both rural and urban areas.

The red fox is the largest of the foxes with a long body and short limbs. They have narrow skulls and long teeth. Male red foxes grow to be about 90cm long and up to about 14kg in weight, with females weighing about 20% less than the males of the species.

Foxes hunt as solitary animals rather than as a pack. The lack a specialised diet, which means that they will eat anything from fish, insects, vegetables and other mammals. This versatile diet has helped the red fox thrive across the northern hemisphere.

Red foxes generally have a litter size of about five offspring, however, that number can sometimes be as high as about fourteen. The red fox family group consists of one male dog-fox and several vixens. One of these vixens is the dominant female, who bears the offspring, while the other females tend to be the previous offspring of the dominant vixen.

The breeding season for red foxes is between December and February, during which the female comes into heat just once. Cubs stay in the den for the first month of their lives, reaching full growth and independence by about mid October.

Conservation Status:

The IUCN Red List lists the red fox as being of least concern. This is due to their extremely wide geographical range, adaptability and varied diet. The red fox is not protected in Ireland for the same reasons. It is considered a pest due to its tendency to prey on poultry. The main reasons that a fox would be hunted in Ireland are for protection of livestock, value of their pelt and recreational hunting.

Interesting Facts:

I’m Listening: Foxes have excellent hearing. They can apparently hear the ticking of a watch from about about 35m away!

Stinky: Foxes are known to be very smelly animals. This is due to scent glands at the base of their tails. This scent is used to distinguish themselves – their own version of perfume!

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