Fox

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Fox
Grey: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Red: Vulpes vulpes Scientific classification:
    Class: Mammalia
    Order: Carnivora
    Family: Canidae
    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Tribe: Vulpini
Both the red and grey fox can be found in Minnesota. The red fox is common across Minnesota. Only recently gray fox have been found in north central Minnesota. The gray fox is a close cousin of the more common red fox. But unlike the red fox, the gray fox can climb trees and prefers mature hardwood forest and woodlot habitats. Both the red and grey are a cousin to the dog.

Grey & Red females are slightly smaller than males, and are called vixen. Male fox are called Reynards or dogs.

The grey fox resembles the red fox in shape, but they are grayish in color with a distinct black stripe on the top of the back and tail. Grey fox do not have "black stockings" like the red. They have grizzled upper parts & strong neck. Unlike other fox the grey fox skull has widely separated temporal ridges that form a U-shape and they have oval instead of slit like pupils. The underfur, belly, and feet are a yellow buff. Grey fox are 30 to 44 inches long, including the 10 to 17 inch long bushy tail. Males weigh from 8 to 20 pounds. There are 16 subspecies recognized for the gray fox.

The average size of an adult red fox is 15 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder. It is about 3 feet in length, with a 13-inch tail. They weigh between 8 and 15 pounds.

The red fox is well known for its rusty-red coat, white-tipped bushy tail, and black legs, ears and nose. In Minnesota, there are several different color variations including nearly solid black, silver-black and red bisected by dark bands across the back and shoulders, called a cross fox. Red foxes bark much like dogs, and will sometimes scream when alarmed.

Diet & Lifespan

The diet consists of: rats and mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, birds, eggs, snakes, fish, insects, grasshoppers, moths, berries, nuts, fruit, grasses, and seeds. A fox will often hide uneaten food under leaves, snow, soil, or bury it in a hole to be eaten later. New born fawns are also a favored prey item. Fox generally consume about 2 pounds (1 kg) of food a day.

Both the gray fox & red fox are solitary hunters. Fox may be active day and night but appears to hunt most during twilight and evening. The Grey fox is primarily insectivorous and herbivorous. Fruit is an important component of the diet of the gray fox and they seek whatever fruits are readily available, and generally eat more vegetable matter than the Red fox.

Unlike many canids, foxes are not pack animals. They may temporarily live in small family groups, and are opportunistic feeders that hunt live prey mainly rodents. But when not rearing young are generally solidary. Fox use a pouncing technique practiced from an early age, they are usually able to kill their prey quickly. The gray fox is one of only two canine species known to climb trees; the other is the Asian Raccoon dog. Its strong, hooked claws allow it to scramble up trees to escape many predators such as the domestic dog or the coyote, or to reach tree-bound or arboreal food sources. It descends primarily by jumping from branch to branch, or by descending slowly backwards as a house cat would do. The gray fox is nocturnal or crepuscular and dens in hollow trees, stumps or appropriated burrows during the day. Such gray fox tree dens may be located 30ft above the ground. The red fox runs 30 mph, and can leap 15 feet in a single bound, farther than a kangaroo!
Gray fox and red fox compete for food, but their main predator is probably the coyote. Adult foxes are occasionally killed by wolves, coyotes, bears, and various other predators. However, the number killed is generally low and, other than coyotes, is not believed to have an impact on fox numbers. Cubs are sometimes killed by eagles, badgers, and other larger predators. In areas where both red and gray foxes exist, the gray fox is dominant.

In the wild mortality rates for fox generally vary between 50% and 70% per year. At 50% per year, only a quarter of foxes live to be two years old, 12% to three years, 6% to four years, and very few make it beyond six years. Exceptionally, a wild fox may survive for ten years but by then it will be very arthritic and lost most of its teeth, so that only a few yellowed stumps remain. In captivity, foxes may live up to fourteen years.

Territory

Red foxes live throughout Minnesota in many types of habitat, ranging from mature forest to open fields. They range over about two square miles (1,000 football fields), depending on how far they need to travel to find food. In a place with a lot of mice and voles, a fox wonít have to travel very far. If there isnít a lot of prey, the fox will have to hunt longer and further to find food, so its territory will be bigger.

They often den up in woodchuck or badger holes, brush piles. Dens are usually found in dense woods. Most dens are quite deep--up to 40 feet. The den, however, is little more than a nursery because fox prefer to sleep in the open, even during winter.

Males will mark their territory by urinating on bushes, stumps, and rocks. To warn other male foxes that this is his territory and to stay away. This scent marking also helps female foxes know that a potential mate is around.

Reproduction

Fox young are called kits, pups and or cubs. Fox can reproduce at one year. Red and gray fox do not cross-breed in the wild.

The gray fox is monogamous. Breeding occurs in late winter, and gestation is about two months. Litter size average four, and the young stay with their mother until autumn. Kits begin to hunt with their parents at the age of 3 months. By the time they are 4 months old, the kits will have developed their permanent dentition and can now easily forage on their own. The family group still remains together until autumn when the young reach sexual maturity and then disperse.

Red foxes mate in February, and 52 days later 5 to 10 young are born. The pups nurse for 10 weeks and are fully independent at seven months.

The Den

Fox den in caves, hollow logs, rock piles, or burrows left by a woodchuck or other mammal. They might dig a hole under a barn or building. Fox often have two dens. Each den has two entrances. Most dens, face south so that it was warmed by the sun. The front entrance leads to the main living area, where the vixen will give birth. The male and female line the inside of the den with dry grass and leaves. Using their forepaws like dogs do, they will dig side tunnels to spaces just big enough for a fox to curl up in.
The Young

In Minnesota most kits arrive in April or May. About 52 days after the parents mate. At birth the kits are blind, deaf, and toothless. At about two weeks, their eyes open. In another two weeks, their flopping ears perk up, their flat muzzles are longer and at five weeks, their eyes change color, from blue to yellow. The female stays with the kits to keep them warm the first three weeks, and nurses for another seven weeks. While the female is busy caring for the young the male is busy hunting.
When the kits are able to keep themselves warm, the vixen begins to leave the den and share hunting duties with her mate. About the same time, the kits start to explore the world outside the den. They love to sleep in the sunand are extremely curious and playful, often tussling with each other. They liked to bite things and chew on each otherís tail and ears. The parents bring them small animals. The kits learne to use their teeth to take apart a whole animal to eat it.
By two months of age, the kits have longer legs. They grow bigger and bold, straying far from the den. Some may even move to the second den. The kits begin to accompany a parent on the hunt. In this way, they also learn about their territory.
By the time the kits are six months old, they are as tall as the adults. Like all foxes, the youngsters are almost impossible to find and see. They leave the den by midsummer. Some young foxes may stay in their parentsí territory for a year. Eventually, all will move to find a territory and mate of their own.

The Name Fox

The Modern English word "fox" is Old English, and comes from the Proto-Germanic word fukh Ė compare German Fuchs, Gothic fauho, Old Norse foa and Dutch vos. It corresponds to the Proto-Indo-European word puk- meaning "tail of it" (compare Sanskrit puccha, also "tail"). The bushy tail is also the source of the word for fox in Welsh: llwynog, from llwyn, "bush, grove". Portuguese: raposa, from rabo, "tail" and Ojibwa: waagosh, from waa, which refers to the up and down "bounce" or flickering of an animal or its tail. Male foxes are known as dogs or reynards, females as vixens, and young as kits, pups or cubs. A group of foxes is a "skulk", "leash", "troop" or "earth".

Domestication & Hunting

There are many records of domesticated red foxes and others, but rarely of sustained domestication. Foxes are normally extremely wary of humans and are not usually kept as indoor pets; however, the silver fox was successfully domesticated in Russia after a 45-year selective breeding program set up by the Soviet scientist Dmitri K. Belyaev. This selective breeding also resulted in physical and behavioral traits appearing that are frequently seen in domestic cats, dogs, and other animals, such as pigmentation changes, floppy ears, and curly tails. They lost their distinctive musky "fox smell", became more friendly with humans, put their ears down, wagged their tails when happy and began to vocalize and bark like domesticated dogs.

Fox hunting is an activity that originated in the United Kingdom in the 16th century. Hunting with dogs is now banned in the United Kingdom, though hunting without dogs is still permitted. It is practiced as recreation in several other countries including Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Russia and the United States.

In Minnesota the gray fox is classed as a furbearer, and is managed with a regulated hunting and trapping season each year. Only a few thousand are taken for fur annually.

The red fox is the most common predator in the state. Hunters and trappers harvest up to 100,000 each year, but the fox population remains strong. A disease called sarcoptic mange sometimes kills thousands of red foxes.

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