Red Fox Facts: History, Habitats and Habits

An introduction to the red fox, learn more red fox facts including the history of the red fox, food sources, habits and habitats of this fox.

| September/October 1987

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    The most common of foxes, Vulpes vulpes, the red fox, calls most of North America home, but few people have had the pleasure of seeing one.
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    Distribution of the Red Fox in North America.

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Please let me introduce you to a red-haired stranger, learn red fox facts including their history, habitats and habits. 

Red Fox Facts: History, Habitats and Habits

If you live in any of the lower 48 states, Canada or Alaska, at least one of the five North American fox species — red, gray, kit, swift or arctic — is your neighbor. And if you reside in Colorado, Utah, Texas or New Mexico, you have four of our continent's five smallest canids as fellow residents — whether you know it or not. (And you can't be blamed if you don't , since foxes make it their business to see that we don't see them.)

Of the five species, the one with the red hair —Vulpes vulpes, the sly antagonist of Aesopian fables, the trickster Reynard of French-Canadian folklore — is far and away the most plentiful and wide-ranging. In short, it's the fox you're most likely to meet someday. To enrich that encounter, allow me I to introduce you to some red fox facts.

By the calendar on the wall, the red fox has made its home in North America for one heck of along time. But in the long view, the little dog is a relative newcomer. Like most other creatures that didn't evolve here but were present when Columbus's ship came in, V. vulpes hiked over from Asia in relatively recent geologic times, crossing on God's own drawbridge, that ephemeral ice age isthmus, the Bering-Chukchi Platform.

It's no mere coincidence, then, that North American and Eurasian red foxes are near-twins (the European version runs a bit larger and evidences minor microchromosomal variances); they haven't been separated long enough to have evolved significant morphological differences. Matter of fact, though the two were long categorized as separate species simply because they inhabit different continents, wildlife taxonomists now lump them under a shared name, V. vulpes (Latin for "fox fox").

And thereupon hangs a tale.

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