North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Red Fox

Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Classification: Game Species 
Abundance: Common throughout state

Species Profile (PDF)

 

   

  

The red fox is the one of two types of foxes found in North Carolina.

The red fox is named for its reddish or orangish coloration. The tail, body and top of the head are all some shade of yellow-orange to reddish-orange. The undersides are light, and the tips of the ears and lower legs are black.

While rare in North Carolina, red foxes can occur in other color variations, such as black, silver, or a cross between red and silver, commonly known as a “cross fox.”

The tail is long (about 70 percent as long as the head and body length), bushy and has a white tip. Adults are the size of a small dog and weigh from 7.7 to 15.4 pounds.

Red foxes, like other wildlife species, prefer a diversity of habitats rather than large tracts of one habitat type. Preferred habitats include farmland, pastures, brushy fields and open forest stands. They frequently hunt the edges of these open habitats.

The red fox forages on a variety of prey, but mice, meadow voles and rabbits form the bulk of its diet. It will eat insects, birds, eggs, fruits and berries in spring, summer and fall. Since the red fox is also a scavenger, it may also eat carrion and garbage in some locations.

The red fox is economically important as a predator and furbearer. Its appetite for mice and woodchucks greatly benefits farmers, and its pelt is valuable for making coats, hats, and other warm clothing. 

Foxes are shy and non-aggressive animals. Red foxes are primarily nocturnal, but it is not unusual to see one during the day. Daytime sightings are not necessarily a sign that a fox is diseased. Rather, they are responding to the abundance of food available during the day.

The presence of red foxes in neighborhoods is not unusual. As with other wildlife, red foxes are adapting to changes in habitat. Residential areas can provide food sources and hiding/denning cover (i.e. ornamental shrubs, crawl spaces). Red foxes will take advantage of a wide spectrum of food (fruit, vegetation, pet food, garbage, small prey) often found in neighborhoods.

Red foxes can become habituated to humans if easy access to food exists. To avoid conflicts, people should keep neighborhoods clean of garbage, pet food, and bird food. Leaving pet food outside may attract red foxes, as well as coyotes, raccoons, opossums and skunks. Not only will this cause them to become habituated, but the high concentration of wild animals may result in outbreaks of fatal diseases such as rabies or canine distemper.

Coexisting with Foxes (PDF)