WNJ Exclusive: The Red Fox

The Red Fox or vulpes vulpes
All photos by Christine Fusco

By Christine Fusco

 The Red Fox, scientific name vulpes vulpes, is in the canine family, although it behaves like a cat in many more ways then dogs behave. They are the size of a medium dog, or a large cat and are the largest of the fox species.  Foxes stalk their prey just like cats. Also like cats, they often play with their catch before they kill it. If they are not hungry they may even catch mice to just play with, then let it go when they are done. A fox uses its tail as a warm cover in cold weather and as a signal flag to communicate with other foxes.

Red foxes can produce up to 28 different vocalizations.  Some sounds may even have you wonder where it came from sounding nothing like you would expect from a fox. The vixen  gives birth to a litter of 2 to 12 pups. Red Foxes are born with a brown or gray coat. A new red coat usually grows in when they are about a month old, but some red foxes are golden, reddish-brown. Foxes stalk their prey just like cats. Our area recently went through Superstorm Sandy. Island Beach was flooded over from ocean to bay side in many areas.  Our concern ran high for the survival of the fox that greet visitors to the park looking for food. Thankfully the foxes seem to have survived their immediate environmental changes to the island.

 On a recent trip we spotted at least 5. I researched and found out the foxes survived by digging  dens beneath the sand dunes.  Often using the same den for several generations.  In the wild their life span is around 3 years old.  In captivity they can live to 10 years.  The foxes on the island trot quickly up to visitors cars looking like very cute pups, and seemingly very friendly...asking for food with their big brown eyes.  In my experience while taking pictures they will come so close I am not comfortable with them in my space, which you would think would be the opposite.  So be cautious you are invading their environment.  It is also advised not to feed the fox so they will take all advantage of what is offered throughout the island and will never have to depend on being fed and not hunting for their survival.

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