Wildlife highlight: Red fox

Wildlife highlight: Red fox

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the smallest of three wild dog species (canids) documented in the Greater Yellowstone. They occur in several color varieties but are usually distinguished from coyotes by their reddish-yellow coat that is somewhat darker on the back and shoulders, with black “socks” on their lower legs.  

Foxes are not often seen because they are nocturnal, usually forage alone, and travel along edges of meadows and forests. During winter, foxes may increase their activity around dawn and dusk, and even sometimes in broad daylight. In late April and May, when females are nursing kits at their dens, they are sometimes more visible during daylight hours, foraging busily to get enough food for their growing offspring. 

Red foxes are more abundant than were previously thought in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; a fact that could be attributed to the growth of the wolf population. This is because wolves successfully competed with coyotes after their reintroduction to the region, causing a decline in the coyote population. This may have caused an increase in the number of foxes in the area since coyotes compete more directly with the smaller canid. 

Interestingly, red foxes are not native to this region and were first documented here in the 1880s. Most foxes in the lower 48 states are a subspecies of fox from Europe introduced in the 1700s and 1800s for fox hunts and fur farms. The foxes that survived the hunt or escaped the fur farms proliferated and headed westward. 

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