Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What Does The Fox Say?

The fox has a reputation as a smart and wiley creature. Its skills are so sharp that the fox has become a part of the English language with such phrases "sly as a fox," "outfoxed," and "crazy as a fox." However, it is believed that the fox is not necessarily so much smarter than other animals but its senses of sight, hearing, and smell are highly developed and contribute greatly to the fox's success.

The Red Fox is native to Alaska and found throughout much of the state with a few exceptions. Some islands in the Southeast and Alaska have foxes that were "introduced" during the early 1900's when fox farming was a popular means of income. During the 1920's, a fox pelt would sell for as high as $500. The fox prefers broken country, extensive lowland marshes, and crisscrossed hills and draws. The fox population is mostly south of the arctic tundra. The Red Fox will share territory with the Arctic Fox, but the Red Fox is dominant and can be territorial. In areas where the two overlap and conflict, Red Foxes have been observed digging Arctic Foxes from their dens and killing them.

The Red Fox is part of the dog family and measures between 22 and 32 inches (body length) with an additional 14-16 inch tail. Males are referred to as "dogs" and females as "vixens." Foxes breed in early spring, generally February or March. Their den is often a burrow that is left behind by small animals such as a marmot. When the fox moves in, it generally expands the size to approximate 15-22 feet and adds additional exits. The female fox lines its den with grass and after a gestation period of 53 days, gives birth to a litter of four to ten "kits" which are born blind. After about a month, the kits are old enough to leave the den and by three months they are learning to hunt. Both the male and female care for the kits for the length of the summer, but by autumn the parents and kits go their own separate way.

The fox is omnivorous which includes everything from plants and berries, to hares, squirrels, birds, eggs, and voles (their favorite). Fox will cache their excess food when hunting is good and return to the cache to either consume it or simply dig it up to make sure it is still where the fox left it.

In places where the fox is not often around humans, they show a cautious curiosity. However, where interaction is common, the fox shows little fear and can easily live in close proximity with humans. Foxes are quite vocal and have a large variety of howls, barks, and whines. The red fox has several natural enemies: man (principally as trappers), wolves, coyotes, lynx, wolverines, and perhaps bears. Eagles are the major predators of young foxes in some areas.

View more Red Fox photos at Alaska Stock.

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