Fine Foxes on Display

Story and photos by Derek Stoner, Family Programs Assistant
A male Red Fox stares intently as the late afternoon sun makes his fur glow.
A male Red Fox at Coverdale Farm stares intently as the late afternoon sun makes his fur glow.

The reports are flying in to the nature center: foxes are everywhere!  During the past couple of weeks, folks are seeing all sorts of Red Fox activity and some very interesting behaviors!

Last week I saw a pair of foxes mating in a field, a persistent male fox trying to haul away a dead Canada Goose, a fox trotting along with a massive chunk of meat clamped in its jaws(see photo), and a battle between foxes that involved lots of snarling and mad dashing about.

A Red Fox carts a big chunk of meat(deer?) across a field.
A Red Fox carts off a big chunk of meat(deer?) across a field.

What’s all the fox fuss about? Well, the explanation is both easy and difficult.  Right now is the peak of the mating season for Red Foxes– that’s the easy answer.  Why we are seeing so much daytime movement of foxes is the important question.

Foxes are typically crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.  Duing these periods of low light, a fox’s prey is also highly active– the mice, voles, shrews, birds, and other small animals that make up the bulk of this canine’s diet.

A fox's ears hep it to pinpoint the locations of sounds and potential prey.
A fox's ears help it to pinpoint the locations of sounds and potential prey.

With cold weather upon us and higher caloric demands, foxes are ranging far and wide in search of food.  The rigors of the mating season also mean foxes are spending more time protecting their territories, which may be several hundred acres in our more rural areas or as small as a suburban neighborhood.    Foxes have taken readily to suburbia, with its surfeit of food in the form of garbage, rodents, pet food, roadkill, and even small pets (yes, your housecat is considered potential food by Vulpes vulpes).

A Red Fox blends in to a warm-season grass meadow at Burrows Run Preserve.
A Red Fox blends in to a warm-season grass meadow at Burrows Run Preserve.
You may not be so lucky to see foxes waltzing through your backyard on broad daylight, but you may see signs of their presence.    Led by its nose, a fox meanders about the landscape in search of food.  Their tracks fall in a perfect line, as one foot falls in front of the other.  Foxes have very narrow hips and this feature leads to an almost cat-like stride pattern.  

Have you seen any foxes lately?

A beautiful portrait of a pair of Red Foxes at the DuPont Environmental Education Center.  Photo by Jim White.
A beautiful portrait of a pair of Red Foxes at the DuPont Environmental Education Center in Wilmington. Photo by Jim White.

One of the most dependable places to watch foxes lately is the new DuPont Environmental Education Center on the Wilmington Riverfront, where a resident pair of foxes is often seen hunting around the edges of the marsh and near the nature center.  Be sure to visit and search for these crafty canines!

5 thoughts on “Fine Foxes on Display”

  1. Thanks for answering my question of what tracks are left which are in a straight line. I have seen this on my property, but always wondered. The information is always very helpful and the photos are beautiful.

  2. We just found a dead juvenile red fox along a popular trail. It did not have any evident wounds but was probably killed by a rival adult male.

  3. I always look forward to reading your blogs!

    How does one pronounce “crepuscular?”

    thanks!!

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