Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) crossing a road. Note the identifying black tips on the ears and the black legs.
Sly as a Fox, is it mythology or biology? My morning spent Googling the Internet seems to indicate that it is both. Foxes have an uncanny ability to anticipate the future. When hunted, Foxes have been known to double back on their trail, cut across streams at an oblique angle, run around in circles, and generally out whit their pursuers. This canid is smarter than your average bear and certainly smarter than my dog who will stare gap-jawed at a pile of scree because some Pika is tormenting it from the safety of little nook.
Since the Red Fox is one of the most wildly spread species in the world, spanning Alaska to Japan, its behavior has been well observed by indigenous peoples, so it is no wonder that the fox has served as a mythological model of cunning behavior. In Hopi mythology, the fox has been granted healing powers. According to Apache legend, it was the bringer of fire. The fox was also believed by many North American tribes to be a shape shifter. Those who wish to make themselves invisible are told to make the fox their totem.
The pictures in this post are of the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes). It is the most common as well as the largest species of fox and is usually a rusty red with black ear tips and legs. There are actually four species of fox in Colorado, however. Gray Foxes have reddish ears and feet and prefer the Mountains. The Swift and Kit Fox are much smaller and have a coloring similar to the Coyote. They are rare and live out on the eastern Plains.
I have been observing the specimen in these pictures in the early morning in the grassy fields near where I work. It must have a den with kits nearby because I have seen it carry “take-out” rodent across the road. Foxes are the most active at dawn and dusk.
The Red Fox is a carnivore but has been known in other parts of the world to prefer invertebrates like crawfish. In Colorado, rodents, which are as varied here as a Chinese menu, are its primary fare. Given the fox’s reputation, however it is no wonder that they are also known to raid trashcans, pet bowls as well as discreetly dine on carrion.
Red Foxes are primarily monogamous, although the wide-ranging male is known to occasionally wander into other female’s territory “in search of food”. You have to wonder how many men have watched that behavior, scratched their chins, narrowed the eyes, and smirked gleefully, I have to say it again… like a fox. Hmmm, perhaps watching football isn’t so bad after all.
Regardless of your belief in spiritual totems, the Red Fox is always entertaining. It is a good parent, is not terribly frightened by humans, and its hunting behavior is amusing to watch. I always feel a little blessed when I get to see a Red Fox, they are just plain cute.
If you are interested in Colorado wildlife, here are a couple of other posts you might enjoy: