Where Do Red Foxes Live?


On a recent road trip across the state, I couldn’t believe how many red foxes I saw.  This made me wonder where else they live.

Red foxes live around the world in Asia, Europe, and North America. They live in diverse climates and habitats, including deserts, woodland, grassland, and mountains. Red foxes also live in urban areas with human populations.  They make their home in a den and have their own range and territory.

Red foxes are one of the most widespread mammals in North America, living all over the United States and Canada. However, they do not live in the far north, where the Arctic fox is better adapted. 

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Where Do Red Foxes Live?

Non-native red foxes such as the European red fox are better adapted to live around humans in urban and suburban areas than native red foxes. The red fox is not present in some states of the western U.S.

Red foxes historically occupied the northern regions of North America and also occupied the high elevations in the west of the U.S.  The European red fox was introduced later in Alaska, California, and many of the south-eastern, eastern, and central states. 

Red foxes had not been seen in some States until the 1900s. However, the red fox expanded into a sustained species at this time.

The red underwent significant habitat changes. Due to the clearing of forests and changes in the red fox’s prey habitat, there was an expansion southward from Canada.

If you would like more details of how a red fox survives the winter, I have written an article here.

Where Does The Red Fox Make Their Home?

Red foxes make their homes by digging burrows in the ground.  These burrows are also called dens. These provide the red fox with an excellent location to store food, a safe place to have their pups and provide an area to sleep.

The entrances to the tunnels are oval or round holes in the earth. The tunnels are approximately 8 inches in height and 12 inches wide, and these are dug down at an angle of 40 to 45°. The burrows extend below the ground to a depth between one and three metes. 

The burrows typically have at least two chambers. The cubs are raised in the larger chamber after being born. The smaller section is where the foxes sleep.

There are normally at least two tunnels to the chambers. These allow the fox an easy escape route in case of an emergency. 

There are three types of mammals.  Find out what they are here

Den Sites

There are certain features that red foxes look for when selecting a den. Most den sites tend to be among trees, under buildings, or in dense vegetation.  The shelters are typically made on slopes, which stops the den from getting flooded as the slopes allow rainwater to drain. In a study in Germany, 95% of the dens researched were on south-east facing slopes.

Foxes will sometimes take over other animal burrows that their owners have abandoned.  Rabbit burrows are a favorite due to the size, although they need to be extended by the fox. The red fox has also been known to use rock caves, woodpiles, and scree piles as a den.

Dens may be used for several years by the foxes. In some cases, a family will have more than one den within a territory.

Want to know why foxes scream? Find out here in this article I wrote.

Living In Urban Areas

Red foxes will make their dens closer to human settlements than most other mammals. The red fox can make its shelter in many habitats. Fox shelters have been found under houses, classrooms, and in baseball stadiums. 

Railway embankments, rockeries, flower beds, tree roots, and around gravestones have also been used as dens for foxes.  Red foxes have also been known to make their den under outbuildings, sheds, and garages.

Although not the best climbers, the red fox has been known to make their dens in trees.

If you would like more details on how the Arctic fox survives, I have written an article here.

Photo of fox

How Large Is A Fox Territory?

As with all mammals, foxes need certain resources to live. A territory would need ample food, water, and shelter. The amount of resources in the area determine the size of the territory. The home range of the red fox would need to be secure from other intruders. 

The territory will generally not accommodate other members of the same species.  The boundaries can be as vast as 40 km² or as small as 0.2 km² depending on the area, food, water, and shelter.

The area over which the red fox wanders looking for food and water is termed the home range. The home range may have intruders in some areas depending on the number of available resources.

Red foxes of the opposite sex are tolerated more when found in a different territory than the same sex. Intruders of the same sex can often cause deadly fights.

Using landscape features such as tree-lined roads, hedges, and other natural boundaries, the red fox marks his territory to let others know they have entered their territory.  The red fox marks their territory by leaving their scat and urine as scent. 

The red fox will leave a different amount of scent depending on the area. The calculation of how much urine is used is determined by how frequently the travel routes are used.

Foxes leave their scent on various items, and you can often see this in your garden or when you go for a walk. Conspicuous objects such as rocks, tree stumps, and even garden gnomes are a prime place for scat to be left.  Don’t be surprised to see some on your shoes if you leave them outside overnight.

Foxes spray urine at their nose height, and the urine contains lots of information.  Other foxes can make sense of this information which includes information about the health, social status, and the season of the fox that left it. Dominant red foxes scent mark more than subordinate foxes.

If you would like more details on how foxes navigate, I have written an article here.

Which Subspecies Live Where?

American Red Fox

The American red fox (Vulpes vulpes fulvus) can be found throughout the Rocky Mountains eastern parts except for southern Texas and the Southern Great Plains.

British Columbian Fox

The British Columbian fox (Vulpes vulpes abietorum) can be found throughout Western Canada.

Northern Alaskan Fox

The Northern Alaskan fox (Vulpes vulpes alascensis) can be found in Alaska, Yukon Territory, and the Northwest Territories.  Andreafsky Wilderness in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge is a good place to see them.

Cascade Mountains Red Fox

The Cascade Mountains red fox (Vulpes vulpes cascadensis) occurs along the northwest coast of the United States and British Columbia in the Cascade Range extending from southern British Columbia through to Washington.

Kodiak Fox

The Kodiak fox (Vulpes vulpes harrimani) make their home in Alaska on Kodiak Island. Most can be found in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.  The Kodiak fox is very large compared to other subspecies.

Kenai Peninsular Fox

The Kenai Peninsula fox (Vulpes vulpes kenaiensis) has softer fur than the Kodiak fox and can be found in the Kenai Peninsula South of Anchorage, Alaska.

Wasatch Mountains Fox

The Wasatch Mountains fox (Vulpes vulpes macroura) gets its name from the Wasatch Mountains near Utah, which they occupy. The Wasatch Mountains fox can also be found in Western Wyoming and Montana, Idaho, and Alberta.

Sierra Red Fox

The Sierra Red fox, also known as the High Sierra fox (Vulpes vulpes necator), gets its name from the range that it is found.  The Sierra Red fox lives in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and occurs in the Cascade Mountains south of the Columbia River.  The High Sierra fox is one of the most endangered mammals in North America, with a population estimated at less than one hundred.

Conclusion

The red fox is adapted to live in most habitats around North America.  With foxes living close to almost all of us, there is a good chance that you will see this beautiful animal up close.

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Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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