Foxes are famously cunning and, as such, they have evolved to be able to adapt to their environment by acting innovatively. But one thing a lot of people don’t know is that, unlike their dog-cousins, foxes are capable of climbing trees!
But why do they do it? And how are they able to? We’ve got all the answers you need in this ultimate guide to how and why foxes climb trees.
Why Do Foxes Climb Trees?
Let’s start by looking at why foxes climb trees. There are actually a few reasons. First of all, a fox might need to scale a large tree as a way of escaping from a larger predator.
This could be a wolf or a hunting dog. And, since neither of these is able to climb, a tree is the best place for a fox to shelter in safety.
Another reason why a fox might decide to climb a tree is to get to certain prey. Bird eggs and fledglings are an easy target for a fox as they can be snatced straight from the nest.
Likewise, certain mammals, such as squirrels, nest in trees, and their young make a quick, easy-accessible meal for a hungry tree-climbing fox.
Finally, some foxes climb trees as a way to rest throughout the day without leaving themselves open to danger. While most foxes live in dens deep underground, just like dogs they take a few naps throughout the day. A tree offers them a place to doze safely.
How Do Foxes Climb Trees?
Being naturally cunning isn’t quite enough of a trait to be able to give foxes the power and agility it takes to climb a tree. They have also had to evolve physical adaptations that allow them to scale to such great heights. So, just how do foxes climb trees?
The first of a fox’s physical adaptations that give it the ability to climb a tree are semi-retractable claws. Any animal that has powerful enough claws will be able to get a good amount of purchase on a tree trunk, but not all of them have the ability to dig in deep enough to heave themselves up it.
Semi-retractable claws, on the other hand (or paw!), allow a fox to grip the tree and dig deep into the bark. In doing this, their body has the support needed to keep them balanced and sturdy while they climb up and down.
Another way that semi-retractable claws help a tree-climbing fox is by allowing them to move much faster around the branches and to scale the trunk in a split second. This is because no extra effort is needed to get a purchase on the wood.
Powerful Hind Legs
Semi-retractable claws are only one essential weapon in a fox’s tree-climbing arsenal. They also need to be able to launch themselves off the ground to get themselves moving quickly.
To do this, they have evolved super-powerful hind legs. They also used these to grab onto the tree securely as they make their way up and down the trunk.
These powerful legs also keep them sturdy while they navigate around the branches and stop them from losing balance in a sudden gust of powerful wind.
While a fox’s powerful hind legs help to keep it steady and give it the muscular strength to climb a tree, its strong forelegs also play a role. First and foremost, they allow the fox to place its paws on the tree and establish the start position, from which its semi-retractable claws will dig in.
Having strong forelegs also helps to keep the fox balanced during the climb, and they help the fox maintain a good speed as they nimbly move around the branches.
Foxes have also evolved super-flexible ankles that allow them to change direction incredibly quickly, even when they are in trees.
This is useful for escaping from predators and for chasing prey through the branches of a tree. It also helps them move effortlessly across awkward angles.
Red foxes and grey foxes have coats that allow them to hide in trees without being spotted by predators or prey. However, this isn’t always the case during winter where a red fox will be very visible in a deciduous tree.
But, throughout the rest of the year, the color of their coats helps them blend in effortlessly amongst the leaves and branches.
If you spot a fox in a tree, don’t panic! It’s definitely not stuck. In fact, it’s likely chasing prey, hiding from a predator, or enjoying an afternoon nap. You don’t need to worry about it getting stuck, either.
The powerful physical adaptations that foxes have evolved in order to climb also give it the ability to get back on the ground safely.