The fox population is considered to be stable in the UK. Regarded as a pest species in many areas and often the subject of active control, the fox is classified as being of least concern by the IUCN. The fox has been introduced for hunting to America and Australia, and it now poses a serious threat to indigenous species
Foxes often leave their droppings, or scats, at prominent
places in their territory. The scats are 5-20 cm long and
spirally twisted, with a strong musty smell. They may
contain fur, insect remains, bones, or seeds depending on
the animal’s recent diet. Foxes also use urine to scent mark their territory.
Fox prints resemble those of a small dog but they are
narrower with the two front pads much closer together.
Dens, or earths, are often excavated in old rabbit or badger burrows and consist of a tunnel of several metres which ends in a sleeping chamber. The den smells strongly musty and there may be prey remains around the entrance. In urban areas foxes may set up home in old buildings or under garden sheds. Outside the breeding season many animals lie up above ground in dense cover
Field surveys for tracks and signs.
Traffic casualty monitoring.
The fox is the size of a small dog – up to 75 cm long with a tail (or brush) adding another 45 cm. The male, or dog, weighs up to 8 kg and the females, or vixens, are slightly smaller. The fox has a slender muzzle and large ears and the bushy adult coat can make the legs appear relatively small. There is a luxuriant tail, with dark underfur and often a noticeable white tip. The coat colour is quite
variable but is generally a yellowish or reddish brown. The lower limbs and ears
are black. The lower muzzle, chin, chest and belly are white or grey. Cubs are dark chocolate-brown for the first month of life, often with white patches on the ears.
Foxes occur in almost all habitats, from open moorland, through woodland and agricultural areas to residential gardens and industrial sites. Some, but not all, foxes defend territories, the size of which varies with the available food resources. In open moorland the territory may be up to 4000 Ha, while in residential gardens it may be as small as 10Ha.
Foxes are opportunistic hunters and scavengers and their diet varies with their habitat. In rural areas they feed mainly on earthworms, fruit, and small mammals; in urban areas over 30% of the diet is scavenged from bird tables and dustbins. In open country birds and their eggs are more important. Generally less than 10% of a fox’s diet consists of domestic stock and this may vary greatly with local circumstances.
Foxes generally live in small family groups of one dog fox with several related vixens and their cubs. The fox is mainly nocturnal and will spend the day in the den. Foxes mate in December and January and the litter of cubs are born between March and May. The number of cubs depends on the food available and up to 10 may be born in each litter, although 4 or 5 is more usual. At
higher population levels only the dominant vixen will breed. The cubs are born blind and deaf and are weaned after 8-10 weeks. The cubs are sexually mature by their first winter.
Few foxes survive their first year and 5 is a good age for a fox, although they have lived to 14 years in captivity. Adult foxes have no natural predators in the UK although cubs may be killed by badgers. Most foxes die from human impacts – hunting and traffic as well as poisoning and dog attacks. In some areas sarcoptic mange, other diseases, and infected bites from other foxes may all contribute to premature mortality.
© David Chapman
© David Chapman
The fox is widespread
and is common and
across the UK, the fox is not of
conservation concern and has no specific protection. The red fox occurs naturally across Europe, north west Africa and Asia, into central India. It has also been introduced to the USA and Australia.