Written by Nicklas Iversen | Last edited 9. June 2021
The red fox is our most common carnivore. Red foxes are found throughout the country: in forests, along the coast, in towns and in the country. The red fox is extremely adaptable. That is why it is found in so many places!
Red fox facts
Latin: Vulpes vulpes.
Famy: Dog family (Canidae).
Length: 90 – 139 cm.
Weight: 3 – 10 kg.
Breeding season: January to March.
Number of young: 3 – 9.
Lifespan: 3 – 5 years.
Max. speed: 50 km/t.
Fox tracks resemble those of a small dog, and you will find them in most places. The fox almost always trots, giving the tracks a distinctive zigzag pattern.
HOW DOES THE RED FOX LIVE?
For the most part, the red fox is solitary here in Scandinavia, meaning that it lives alone. Some fox pairs may share a den and work together to raise cubs for several years in a row. Although a fox pair may stay together for an extended period, they are not monogamous. Both sexes may mate with several other animals.
The red fox marks an area, which it defends against intruders of the same sex, particularly in the breeding season. This area is called a territory.
The breeding season is in winter, and varies from south to north. In Southern Norway, it can start as early as December, but February to March is most usual. During this time, the foxes will call to each other with hoarse barks. They sound like this:
A couple of months later, the female fox, or vixen, will give birth to cubs. This will happen in the den she has dug. There are usually 4 – 6 cubs in the litter, but sometimes vixens will have more than 10 cubs. The male fox will help raise cubs with the vixen he shares a den with. As foxes mate quite indiscriminately, these cubs will not necessarily be his.
The cubs live with the mother in and around the den for three or four months before leaving home. They then have to find a territory of their own.
The red fox lives for three to five years in the wild, so they do not get very old.
WHAT DOES THE RED FOX EAT?
Although it is a carnivore, the red fox is very versatile in terms of what it eats. Eggs, beetles, worms and berries are all good food sources. But, above all, the red fox is a mouse hunter. The fox has adapted to living in the cultural landscape created by humans. Both because we scatter trash and food scraps around, and because mice and small rodents flourish in our vicinity.
The red fox has a unique way of hunting mice. It uses it’s excellent hearing to listen for mice in passageways running beneath grass or snow. The fox then jumps high in the air and dives onto the ground. The purpose of this exercise is to collapse the mouse’s passageways, trapping the mouse. If the red fox is able to do this, catching the mouse is easy.
The red fox may also eat baby roe deer (fawns) and hares (leverets) lying in the grass. These young animals are hiding and relying on their camouflage to keep them concealed. The fox has a good sense of smell and can locate them without seeing them. When fully grown, hares and roe deer are generally too fast for a fox. Special conditions, such as deep snow, are needed for them to be caught. In such conditions, foxes have been known to get hold of adult roe deer too.
The red fox may also help itself to livestock. Most people will probably have heard that the red fox can take chickens, but rabbits and small lambs can also fall prey to a fox.
WHERE DOES THE RED FOX LIVE?
The red fox is found in most types of landscapes, they can be found both high up the mountains and close by farms and gardens. The red fox is a adaptable species, their territories variy.
The red fox has even started living in the mountains. This is also because of us humans. We have made life easier for foxes in the mountains, both directly and indirectly. Directly because we clear roads up into the mountains to access cabin areas, ski resorts, etc., where the fox can find food scraps and rubbish. The red fox can also find food under our power lines, as many birds collide with the lines and end up lying dead below them.
With winters in the mountains becoming shorter and milder owing to climate change, life there is getting easier and easier for the red fox. In other words, our pollution has indirectly made things easier for the red fox in the mountains.
A third reason for the red fox being so widespread in Norway is that it has to move to new locations in order to find vacant areas. Like the mountains.
HOW MANY RED FOXES DO WE HAVE IN NORWAY?
We have a lot of red foxes in Norway. Lynx, golden eagles and wolves can kill and eat red foxes. But because there are not very many large carnivores, and they are not found everywhere, the majority of red foxes in Norway live quite safely. We humans have largely stopped hunting the red fox too, as it’s fur is no longer of any value. This has led to an explosion in fox numbers. This in turn is creating problems for forest birds, hares and roe deer, as a lot of eggs, chicks and young animals are being eaten by foxes. The red fox is even causing trouble for the Arctic fox. All in all, we estimate that there are nearly 200,000 red foxes in Norway.
RED FOX AND ARCTIC FOX
Når nye arter kommer inn i områder de tidligere ikke har eksistert, kan det by på trøbbel på de artene som allerede finnes der. De opprinnelige artene har rett og slett ikke utviklet ferdigheter til å forsvare seg mot nye fiender. Slik er det også med fjellreven, nå som rødreven har begynt å ferdes i fjellet.
Rødreven kan drepe og spise den mye mindre fjellreven, men den største utfordringen for fjellreven er nok at rødreven tar over hiplassene til fjellreven. Fjellrever har nemlig hi som blir brukt gjennom generasjoner. De har mange ganger og innganger, og kan huse mange fjellrever. Gode hiplasser er mangelvare i fjellet. Om et fjellrevhi forsvinner kan det derfor bety slutten for fjellrev i det fjellområdet.
When new species move into areas where they have not previously existed, it can cause problems for the species that already live there. The indigenous species have quite simply not developed the skills to defend themselves against new enemies. That is also what has happened in the case of the Arctic fox now that the red fox has begun to live in the mountains.
The red fox can kill and eat the much smaller Arctic fox, but probably the biggest challenge for the Arctic fox is that the red fox is taking over it’s den sites. The fact is that Arctic foxes have dens that are used for generations. They have a lot of passages and entrances,and can provide lodging a lot of Arctic foxes. Good den sites are in short supply in the mountains. So if an Arctic fox den is lost, it can mean the end of the Arctic fox in that part of the mountains.