The red fox is found in North America from the Arctic Circle to well into Central America. It has a slender body, long legs, a slim muzzle, upright triangular ears and a bushy tail, usually tipped in white. Gray foxes can also be found in Maryland, and they tend to have a black tipped tail. Gray foxes also tend to be smaller than red foxes.
Ideal red fox habitat includes a mix of open fields, small woodlots and wetlands – making modern-day Maryland an excellent place for it to live. Red foxes are also highly adaptive and can be found in suburban and urban areas. While native to Maryland, there are reports of early settlers bringing the red fox from Europe for release by landowners for hunting with hounds.
Red foxes have an omnivorous diet, meaning that they eat both plants and animals. A typical red fox diet includes rabbits, snakes, insects, birds, mice, berries and fruits. The red fox usually uses a den or burrow only during the period when it is raising pups – a task the male and female fox share together. Red foxes mate from January through March. After a gestation period of 51 to 53 days, females give birth to a litter averaging 4 or 5 pups in the spring. Red foxes may dig their own burrows, but they usually improve an abandoned groundhog burrow. It also is common for foxes to den in the crawl space under decks and sheds. During the remainder of the year, the red fox avoids dens and sleeps in sheltered locations by relying on its thick fur for warmth.
Foxes can be quite vocal, and they make barks, howls, and whines. The sounds vary from a short, sharp "yap" or bark, followed by a "yap, yap," to a combination of screeches, yells, and long howls.
While its cousins the wolf and dog are social, the red fox tends to be more solitary except during the breeding season. The red fox is capable of learning from experience, which has earned it the “cunning” namesake in literature. This clever nature, its adaptability and careful management, ensure that the red fox will roam the Chesapeake Bay watershed for many generations to come.
Photo of red fox pup courtesy of Hal Korber/Pennsylvania