Red fox

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Description

The red fox is a member of the dog family. It has a pointed face and ears and a long, bushy tail. This small animal weighs between 3.0 to 7.0 kg and is about 100 cm long with its tail accounting for almost half this length.

Red foxes are shy, nervous animals, which are most active at night. They have acute hearing and a keen sense of smell. They run with a quick, airy gait, leaving paw prints in a line in the snow. 

Red foxes are larger than the Arctic fox and live in more southern ranges. However, the red fox is an adaptable animal and some have extended their range into areas where the Arctic fox is found.

Red fox is important to the fur industry because of its large numbers and wide distribution in the Northwest Territories (NWT).

Colour

The red fox is generally one of three colours. Red is most common and occurs in 45 to 75 percent of the population. These foxes are reddish-brown with a white chest, abdomen and tip of the tail. They have black hairs on their legs and down their backs.

The cross fox is grey-brown in colour with black hairs across the shoulders, which form a "cross." This second phase makes up about 20 to 44 percent of the red fox population in Canada.

Silver foxes are black with a white tip of the tail and a variable amount of silver frosting on the guard hairs. The silver phase occurs in only 2 to 17 per cent of red foxes. All colour phases can occur in the same litter.  

Red Fox Kit
Red Fox Kit

Distribution

Red foxes range across Canada as far north as some of the Arctic islands. Higher densities are located below the treeline of the NWT. They also occur sparsely in the southern tundra.

Normal home ranges vary between 5 and 35 km2. Foxes may undertake long migrations in search of food, especially in years of low prey density and high fox numbers. The wide distribution of red foxes indicates they are able to survive in a variety of habitats. They are most often found in semi-open country, such as natural clearings, river valleys, tundra and agricultural areas.

Red fox distribution by ecoregion map - Northwest Territories

Diseases

Rabies is the most common disease affecting foxes in the NWT. Encephalitis and distemper are also fatal diseases more prevalent during years with high numbers of foxes. Many foxes are infected with a variety of internal and external parasites.