The Red Fox

by Chuck Loeffler

The Bent Tree Log - September 1993


Almost everyone who lives in Bent Tree has seen or heard a red fox.  They are the most common mammalian predator in our area, and one of two wild canids found here.  The other member of the dog family in this area is the coyote, who is seen and heard less frequently than is the fox.


The red fox is one of three species of foxes found in  Colorado.  The others are the gray fox and the swift fox (sometimes also called the kit fox).  The red fox is by far the most common of these.  It occurs in at least a portion of every US State and Canadian Province, and is primarily found in wooded areas.


This clever animal is a survivor and adapts well to living in areas where people have encroached on its habitat.  Red foxes are primarily predators, but have an omnivorous diet - much like the coyote - which helps them to survive when normal prey species are not abundant.  They feed on small mammals and birds, but also will eat a variety of vegetation and fruits, frogs, reptiles, crayfish, insects, and whatever else is handy and edible when hunger strikes.


The red fox's normal appearance consists of reddish-yellow fur with black feet and ears, and a white tip on the tail.  Natural color variations do occur, though.  There are black (melanistic), "silver", and "cross" phases.  The latter is the normal reddish-yellow color, but with a blackish-brown cross on the shoulder area.


Red foxes in Colorado mate in late January and early February, and have litters of three to nine young in late March or early April.  The young are born in dens, situated in rock crevices, hollow logs, small caves, or burrows in the ground.  Both parents usually care for the young, which are born blind, but develop and grow fairly quickly, and become independent by mid to late summer.


Foxes, as most wildlife species, are interesting and enjoyable to watch and photograph.  However, it should always be kept in mind that they are wild animals, and should be treated and respected as such.  If you go out to watch the foxes at one of the dens in Bent Tree, don't approach too close.  As a general rule, "too close" means close enough to disrupt a wild animal's normal behavior and/or frighten it.  Feeding of the foxes also is not a good idea.  Especially, DO NOT feed them things like pizza, hot dogs, twinkies, etc!  The young foxes need to learn to find and eat natural foods, so they will be able to survive and stay fit on their own in the coming winter months.  Last, but not least, it can be hazardous to approach wild mammals too closely - especially if there are young present and the adults perceive a threat to them.  Wild mammals can also be carriers of diseases, such as rabies, plague, and distemper.  So, enjoy watching wildlife, but maintain a respectable distance.