Sunday, April 19, 2009

Red Fox

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.

Take this fox's facial expression and put it on a human. How would you read it?

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.

Looking down a grassy slope

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.

Scent marking

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.

Disappearing into the shrubbery

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:


  1. Thanks for this great post about this fox. I really think they get a bad press, we all have to live. I see one at Shipley raily station quite often, trotting down to platform 4 and it makes my day.

  2. Sylvia,
    How have you been? Well, I hope!! Sorry to hear you are still climbing out of the grips of winter..but when you do turn that corner into spring YOU MUST post some of those gorgeous wildflowers that grow in those mountains!!
    I really enjoyed reading about your little foxy fox. You have such wonderful captures of his sly little face..and yes if one was to put that face on a person we all would be looking over our shoulders!! lol that was a great statement..
    I'm amazed (and a little jealous) that you get to see him/her? every day..what a wonderful way to brighten any day!!
    Thanks for stopping by..always good to hear from you. ;-)

  3. Wow, this fox is a beautiful creature...with a sly expression for close were you or how long is your lens....

  4. Hi Carol,

    I used a 70-200mm lens but he was only about 20 yards away.

    I saw him again a few days ago. He was 5 feet from my car.

  5. Hi Sylvia,
    Thanks for stopping by monasterydailyphoto. I'm really glad to find your blog because Colorado is one of my most favorite places on this great earth. I also appreciated this post of the red fox because we have them on our monastery property and they occasionally wander near the building. Thanks for the great information on these beautiful creatures.

  6. Very informational

  7. We have one in my backyard. It comes every now and then to bath in the sun, and patrols my yard.

  8. I have a Momma and 2 babies living under my shed. The babies look like they are maybe 2 weeks old. They are truly one of the cutest animals I've ever seen! But, I have a small dog, and due to the current rabies scare in Colorado, I need them to leave. I refuse (at this point) to harm them. I've tried ammonia and moth balls but they just push it out of their den. Help!

  9. Contact your local Wildlife Master Program by calling your nearest Colorado State University Extension Office. They are trained to help you with this kind of thing. Good luck.

  10. Anonymous, if your dog is current on their rabies vaccination you don't have to worry in that respect. If your dog is a very small breed, make sure you always go outside with them; foxes will prey on cats and a very small dog may be seen as food as well. (Very good argument for keeping cats inside at all times, and letting dogs stay indoors more often too!!). Wait till babies are old enough to leave with mom and you should be able to repel them after that.

  11. Is there a chance of a red fox being all black? I know of one in Evergreen, but not sure what kind of fox he is. He's been seen along with another red fox. I can forward a photo if you'd like. He's a regular visitor to the area and I'd love to know more about him. Thank you.

  12. dooing a report on the fox verry helpful

  13. We have a family of fox who just had a litter. One is completely black, much like our dog, and another (older, red sibling, I believe) won't leave our dog alone. Every evening at dusk, he meanders over to our yard and peers into our storm door to see if my pup wants to "play". Playing usually involves a nice long game of chase. But the black fox down the road is really really fast compared to the others and looks ten times more sly.

    1. I saw a black fox yesterday in Golden, CO! I doubted myself, I never heard of a black fox, but the it's shape and running gate was surely a fox. Glad to find this, I treasure fox visits!

  14. I think it was a fox that killed my cat...have you known that to happen?

  15. Thanks for this post. I saw one today near Long Lake, CO and your excellent photos helped me identify it!