Red foxes—like this one in Ontario, Canada—have long whiskers, retractable claws, and excellent night vision.
Red foxes—like this one in Ontario, Canada—have long whiskers, retractable claws, and excellent night vision.
Photograph by mlorenzphotography / Getty Images

Red Fox

Common Name:
Red Fox
Scientific Name:
Vulpes vulpes
Average Life Span In The Wild:
2 to 4 years
Head and body: 18 to 33.75 inches; tail: 12 to 21.75 inches
6.5 to 24 pounds

The sun starts to set in northern Virginia, and a red fox wakes up and stretches, ready to search for dinner. She hunts alone and steps silently through the bushes. In the shadows she’s almost invisible. Then she stops; she smells something. The red fox suddenly leaps up, over the edge of … an open garbage can. She tears through a plastic bag and snatches some scraps of grilled chicken. As the fox climbs out, the garbage can tips over with a crash. Bang! A dog barks. Backyard lights turn on, but the sly fox has already disappeared through the fence with her meal in her mouth.


The dinnertime scenario is common across much of the northern hemisphere, the red fox’s natural range. (Red foxes are the most widespread meat-eating mammals on the planet.) Cities and suburbs are spreading into the countryside, swallowing up red fox habitats across the world. But instead of moving, these clever wild animals learn to thrive near large populations of people.

To avoid humans, skillful red foxes hunt at night in backyards, gardens, and city parks. Luckily, they’re not picky eaters. Although rabbits, mice, and other rodents are their favorite meals, red foxes will eat birds, frogs, snakes, grasshoppers, and even berries. An extra-hungry red fox will also jump into an open garbage can for tasty leftovers or nibble on food that’s been left out on the porch for someone’s pet.


Red foxes even look similar to some of your favorite pets. They’re canines, which are relatives of dogs, wolves, and coyotes. But in some ways, they’re actually more like cats. They have long whiskers, retractable claws, and excellent night vision. Also like cats, red foxes hunt alone rather than in wolf-like packs.

Although they hunt solo, both red fox parents take care of their pups, or kits. Parents take turns hunting for food and bringing it back to hungry kits waiting at home. In the wild, red fox homes—called dens—are usually on the edges of forests, near fields where hunting would be good. In the city, dens are often located under porches, where access to rodents is easy.


Many of them might show up in in backyards, but red foxes are wild animals. That’s why you should always keep a good distance from foxes and never feed them. Wildlife biologists advise covering garbage cans and bringing in pets and pet food at night. If humans feed them, red foxes can lose wild ways like their ability to hunt. If they can’t hunt, they can’t survive.