Red foxes are the smallest wild canids in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, although they are the largest of the true foxes. Their fur isn’t always red; there are different color morphs including black, silver, and brown. They are recognizable by their black “stockings” on all four legs.
Red foxes use urine to mark their territories, and they have anal glands that let them produce a musky spray that smells similar to a skunk.
Red Foxes in this ecosystem
Red foxes are found throughout most of the United States, Europe, and Asia. There are 45 recognized subspecies.
The red foxes in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem are a subspecies known as the Rocky Mountain fox (Vulpes vulpes macroura).
Although foxes are considered rabies vectors, in 2015 only 5.9% of all wildlife rabies cases in the U.S. were foxes. None of those cases happened in Montana, Wyoming, or Idaho. Bats and skunks are the primary rabies vectors in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Red foxes are omnivores. In this ecosystem, they eat mostly rodents, birds, lizards, amphibians, fruits, and grasses. They generally hunt alone before sunrise and in the late evenings, but groups can sometimes be seen in areas with a lot of prey.
When hunting small rodents, they listen carefully to pinpoint their prey’s location under grass or snow, and then leap high in the air, coming down with their front feet on the rodent. They can jump as far as 15 feet when hunting.
At the Sanctuary, our fox gets a variety of raw meats along with dry kibble for extra nutrition.
BEHAVIOR & Lifespan
Red foxes have a wide variety of vocalizations, and complex body language used to communicate with each other. They are most active at dusk & dawn, and live an average of 4-6 years.
Red foxes are quite athletic. They can leap a 6-foot fence, and are often seen on top of rocks and stumps to get a better view of their surroundings. When foxes have excess, they will cache food for later. Our red fox is often spotted doing this.