Did you know that most foxes are monogamous and mate for life? Fox behavior is a wide area of study that deals with some of their complex behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at what makes a fox tick.
Foxes can be friendly and do not pose much of a threat to humans or house pets. While most foxes are solitary creatures and keep to themselves, others, such as urban foxes, have learned to live alongside humans. Foxes make a variety of sounds and also communicate using their tails and other methods.
Foxes have been a mystery for so long. To get a glimpse into the life of a fox is a rare opportunity to learn about these awesome little guys. They have made their homes in many parts of the world, from the northern hemisphere, down into Mexico, and places like Japan and Arabia.
Because they are solitary animals, they tend to keep to themselves. However, with urban foxes, that have made their homes in the suburbs and cities, it has become common to see foxes playing in areas like cemeteries and backyards. We are now getting a better understanding of their behaviors and habits.
Fox Behavior Daytime
Foxes are known as being nocturnal, this is evident by their eyesight, and being able to see in the dark, like cats. Foxes primarily sleep in the daytime and hunt at night. However, over time, they have become crepuscular, going out in the daytime and twilight hours. It is no longer uncommon to see a fox in the daytime.
This is especially true with urban foxes, and foxes in captivity, who tend to adapt their sleeping schedule to their caretakers and surroundings. For me, it’s an exciting moment to catch a glimpse of a fox, out in a field, crossing a road, or playing on a deck in the backyard!
See our article for Are Foxes Nocturnal?
See our article for Where Do Foxes Sleep?
Fox Behavior with Humans
Since the urban fox phenomenon has now become a normal thing in many places, we are seeing them interact with humans on a much larger scale. Foxes are usually very cautious and keep to themselves, but with their habitats being destroyed by human developments, we are seeing them more often in our own backyards.
This puts some of us in direct contact with foxes. I get a lot of questions about whether or not it is safe for humans and pets, to have foxes around. For the most part, I believe foxes are not going to harm humans or house pets. They are wild animals though, and their behavior is going to be wild.
If you are going to interact with wild foxes, I suggest doing it from a distance, where you can observe them, without coming into direct contact. Many people are feeding foxes, which sounds like a good idea, but because they are wild animals, you may be doing more harm than good.
They need to have their instincts sharp for hunting and surviving, since they may not always have humans to depend on. In some rare cases, such as urban foxes who have fully assimilated into human territory, it has become common for these foxes to feed on food scraps and trash bins.
See our article for Are Foxes Friendly?
Fox Behavior In Winter
Many foxes live in the northern hemisphere, where weather conditions are extremely cold. So, what do foxes do in the winter? Foxes such as red foxes and arctic foxes are built for the cold weather. They have heavy fur coats, and fur on their footpads that keep them from getting frostbite. Foxes use their tails to curl up around them and stay warm. This helps further insulate them from extremely cold temperatures.
Most foxes mate in the winter, so you will often hear fox calls on cold winter nights. This is usually a male fox, who is looking for a mate. Because this is the mating season, you will see many types of behaviors, such as male foxes following females, communicating with them, and nuzzling them.
Fox Behavior in Spring
Spring is the season when kits (baby foxes) are born. During this time, it is not uncommon to see foxes out in the daytime, more than usual. This is when foxes are teaching their young how to eat, how to fend for themselves, and how to survive.
The parents are going to hunt more in the daytime in these months, with the male doing most of the hunting, while the female stays in the den to protect her kits. The kits stay in the den for around a month, before they venture out. At the end of this period, the female (vixen) will also start to hunt again.
If you approach an area where there is a fox den, with kits, you will most likely hear the parents giving you a fox call that means, stay away human! This is normal behavior because foxes are very protective of their young.
Red Fox Behavior
Red foxes are the most common fox. They can be found on multiple continents and inhabit many types of areas, including urban areas. Foxes do not form packs the way wolves do, so red foxes can show solitary behavior.
Just like other foxes, red foxes are territorial and will mark the area around their den with urine. They will also mark areas with their glands. They have glands on the bottom of their feet that they will rub onto rocks and trees.
Red foxes can be both nocturnal and crepuscular, depending on the area where they live, and the type of environment. Most red foxes will have favorite hunting grounds and latrine areas close to their dens. A latrine area is where they do most of their “dirty business.”
A fox should not be on the jury at a goose’s trial.Thomas Fuller
See our article for Fox Characteristics.
Gray Fox Behavior
Gray foxes are a little bit smaller than red foxes and can be more solitary. They use their peppered gray color to blend into the trees, and while red foxes rely heavily on their speed, gray foxes rely on their ability to blend in and camouflage themselves.
The gray fox is the only canid with retractable claws, they are called tree foxes, because of their ability to climb trees. They have powerful back legs that allow them to jump around tree branches.
Gray foxes can be very social, using their voice, chemical communication, and visual signs. The hair will stand up on their tails and back if they are in distress as a signal to others. Just like with other foxes they mark their home range and den areas with urine and feces.
Arctic Fox Behavior
Arctic foxes live in the Arctic tundra region. They can survive in extremely cold temperatures by occupying dens that are deep in the ground. Usually, the dens are generational and can be as old as 100 years, with 20 or more entrances.
The arctic fox is opportunistic and relies on many different sources for food, including lemmings, rodents, and carrion (carcasses left by other animals.) The arctic fox mates for life. In areas that connect with Canada, will migrate to have their kits, to parts of Canada that are slightly warmer.
Abnormal Fox Behavior
Sometimes foxes exhibit unusual behavior, like hunting during the day instead of at night, or feeding from trash bins left out by humans. Urban foxes have adapted this way, to survive in areas where their natural territory has been replaced with human developments.
In some cases seeing a fox out in the daytime can be a sign that they have rabies, however, with behavioral changes in foxes, it’s no longer uncommon to see them out in the daytime. There is no threat from a fox in the daytime unless they show other signs of rabies, such as drooling heavily from the mouth. Source.
Pet Fox Behavior
Pet foxes have been tamed and exhibit behavior that is slightly different than foxes in the wild. Pet foxes tend to take on the schedules of their caretakers, sleeping the same hours and eating when they are fed.
Most pet foxes were raised in captivity by breeders, rescued by wildlife rehabilitators, or saved from fur farms. Pet foxes have been tamed, by being raised by humans from birth. These foxes are not fully domesticated and will still exhibit wild behavior, but they tend to be less aggressive, such as with the Russian tame fox experiments. Source.
Fennec foxes have been brought to America from Africa, where they are bred to be exotic pets. Foxes need special attention for their diets, and because they are high-energy animals. Pet foxes and foxes in captivity need outside enclosures that allow them to run around and get exercise. Some people have also asked me if foxes can breed with dogs, and the short answer is no. Find out more here.
See our article for Fennec Foxes as Pets.
See our article for Can You Have a Pet Fox?
The behaviors of foxes are somewhat fluid, changing with the times. Most foxes are not dangerous to pets or humans, but they are still wild animals and their instincts can kick in at any time. It’s best to observe them from a distance.
The fox is an animal that has left a mark on humans, in many ways. You can find them in literature, in symbolism, and even in spiritual forms. Foxes have emotions and although they have extremely wild behavior, they are still loving creatures, excellent parents, and a thriving part of the ecosystems where they live.
See our article for Do Foxes Eat Cats?
See our Article for Fox Symbolism.