Nature’s Elusive Redheads: North American Fox

The Red fox’s pelt has long, silky auburn hair. The fox’s eyes are gold- to yellow-colored with vertical slits like a cat’s eyes. The evolutionary lineage of foxes date back 40 million years. They have long been acknowledged for their cleverness and adaptability to the changing environment.

Foxes, like their relatives, coyotes and wolves, have a scent gland on the top of the tail. Studies of this gland, found it possibly involves the production of steroids. One study indicates the gland glows, although the light can’t be seen by the naked eye. The exact function of this gland, named the violet gland, is still a mystery but seems to be related to communication. Obliviously, the animals have it all figured out, but the sly foxes aren’t telling.

You can also haunt for them using the new amazon tactical flashlight, I had one by the way and it was a great investment.

Hunting of the Red fox began as early as the 15th century in England. Red foxes, not native to North America, were imported to the east coast by the Europeans, in the late 1600’s, to hunt. It’s not only foxes who are hurt and killed in fox hunting; horses and hounds also die in this ‘blood sport’.


Aside from the human threat, the red fox, a solo hunter, must often share his hunting ground with coyotes. Competing for the same prey will usually lead to a battle over food. This is where the smaller, cunning fox’s behavior pays off. The red fox will- ‘surplus kill’- storing the food stash away in shallow holes for lean times. At least, the fox does eat what he kills.


A natural threat to foxes is mange, a disease caused by tiny mites. All wildlife is threatened by rabies, which affects the nervous system, left untreated causes a painful death. Our earliest record of rabies comes from Babylon. Law-makers, in 2300 BC, imposed huge fines on owners of rabid dogs who did not keep them confined. In more recent times, foxes receiving the rabies vaccination has proved successful in fighting the virus.


Female foxes are known as ‘vixens’. Their male counterparts are called ‘dogs’. Males, on average, only live long enough to breed once or twice. The life expectancy of 2-6 years doesn’t give them much time to spread their genes around. In most species, males will kill the offspring of rival males, this rarely happens with foxes. Males appear to be devoted fathers. It is common for surviving generations to inherit territory from their father.


The Red fox is protected in the United States, somewhat- if you can make sense of this law: “In some states, [such as Florida] it is illegal to chase fox with dogs while in possession of a firearm; although it is legal to chase them otherwise”.


Aesop’s Fables, 4 BC- The Fox and the Grapes

The protagonist, a fox, on failing to find a way to reach grapes hanging high on the vine, says: “The grapes are sour anyway!” The moral of the story refers to denial of one’s desire for something one fails to acquire. The Greeks viewed this as ‘unripe’- too young to know better.



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