Red Fox

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) as seen in our Oregon Coast exhibit.

The fox is doglike in appearance and belongs to the Family Canidae. It is a unique species and the largest of the true foxes. It has a narrow, pointed muzzle and upright, pointed ears. As the name implies, this fox’s coat is orange-red with black feet and black-tipped ears. The belly is usually white or light gray.

The animal is an opportunistic omnivore, meaning it will feed on a variety of animals and plants, quickly adapting to different circumstances in order to obtain food. In many cases, the fox will scavenge for food and can sometimes be considered a nuisance animal by homeowners frustrated by having their trashcans raided at night. Poultry farmers may encounter similar issues, as the fox is well-known for preying on domesticated chickens, ducks and geese. Wild food sources include rodents, birds, invertebrates, reptiles and ungulates (hoofed animals). The fox has been known to scavenge carcasses as well.

The Red Fox has been heavily hunted for its pelt and is still often used in women’s fashion for fur scarfs, wraps and capes.

Other fox species in Oregon include the Kit Fox (Vulpes velox) and Common Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus).

Range and Habitat

The wide-ranging Red Fox inhabits most of North America and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas. In this sense, they have a similar lifestyle to the highly adaptable Coyote. Although more rare on the Oregon Coast, foxes can be found in wetlands, dunes and other areas where bird life is plentiful. In June 2012, the Oregon Coast Aquarium provided care for orphaned Western Snowy Plover chicks after their mother was preyed upon by a Red Fox.

Conservation Status

Common to endangered, depending on the location and subspecies. The Red Fox species found on the coast is not threatened.

Some subspecies of the Red Fox were considered extirpated (locally extinct) in Oregon. But in Summer 2012, two colonies of the Sierra Nevada subspecies (Vulpes vulpes necator) were detected in the Cascade Mountains south of Mount Hood. This was the first identification of the subspecies in Oregon in years and their status is being closely monitored by both federal and state wildlife agencies. Vulpes vulpes necator is critically endangered, with possibly as few as twenty individuals remaining in North America.

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