Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Scientists estimate the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) inhabited North America somewhere between 2 million to 100,000 years ago. That is likely longer than humans lived here. This fox, the largest of all fox species, is found throughout the world because they easily adapt to environments. They have something called biological plasticity—there are 48 possible subspecies. The red fox you would find in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is the Rocky Mountain red fox (Vulpes vulpes macroura); this specific fox typically has a lighter colored coat than most red foxes. Even though their name suggests they are red, these foxes can also be black, brown, or blonde, but usually have black legs and a white chest.
Red foxes live underground in dens that are up to 20 ft deep with multiple exits just in case a predator is on their tracks. Sometimes they will use preexisting burrows of small mammals and make them a little more spacious. Wolves will do the same to abandoned fox dens. Red fox kits are born in a litter of about 4 or more, and young foxes that are almost indistinguishable from adults. Young foxes tend to stay with their parents to help raise the new litter. Unlike humans, kits can find their own food at just 3 months old. A red fox family will stay together until fall, when their kits have learned how to hunt voles, mice, rabbits, birds, or other small critters on their own. When red foxes dive for prey, they catch their food 73% of the time—that’s skill! Citations and more to read: Yellowstone Natural History: Red Fox, and Daryl Hunter’s eBook, Grand Teton: Photography & Field Guide.
Written by Celia Karim
PC: YNP on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/SUwXYm