A Red Fox in Late Winter

I first saw the mature Red Fox hunting around the yard in the dim light of early morning about a week ago. Our backyard wildlife habitat – spruce trees, brush piles, stone walls and a continuous supply of bird seed – supports abnormally high populations of prey species, so the presence of a small mammal predator wasn’t a surprise.

A fox looks a bit like a long-legged dog with a long, bushy tail. On the other hand, their hunting behavior – moving with great speed and agility, climbing, leaping and pouncing – is very cat-like.

There’s always a concern about diseases like sarcoptic mange and rabies (both fatal) in foxes, but this one appeared to be very healthy. The thick, fluffy winter coat is a thing of beauty, and also deceptive. A dog with this outward appearance might weigh 30 pounds, a fox less than half that.

In late winter, an opportunistic feeder like a fox will eat just about anything in front of its nose that contains precious calories, including carrion. Woodpeckers hammering into a suet (animal fat) bird feeder on the pole send small pieces flying to the ground. The fox wasn’t about to let the fallen suet go to waste.

Foxes have incredible senses; they can hear a mouse or vole under a foot of snow cover! Here, I was shooting from inside the house, doors and windows closed, 60 feet from the pole. And I’m convinced that this curious look is a response to my camera shutter.

I think this is a male (“dog”) but can’t be sure. Males are a bit larger than females (“vixen”).ย A pregnant female would be about a month along with her 52-day gestation period. Either way, I’m hoping for more opportunities to document the behavior of our neighborhood Red Fox.

Photos by NB Hunter (Feb. 9 and 16, 2019). All rights reserved.

18 thoughts on “A Red Fox in Late Winter

  1. This fox looks so handsome set against the white snow. We also have a red fox in the woods near us, but I can only get within 100 ft of it and have never been able to get pictures this good!

    • Thanks Hien. I see fox and coyote sign almost daily but rarely have opportunities to photograph them. Hunting and trapping are a factor, forcing them to be more wary and more nocturnal than they might be otherwise. This is just the third opportunity that I’ve had in over a decade for close encounters in adequate light. In all cases the foxes were somewhat human-tolerant and active in daylight. Photographing over bait (e.g. deer carcass) for the snow scenes is another option, but it’s still a hit-or-miss strategy that has to be executed in freezing temperatures. Appreciate your visit and comments!

  2. What a lovely specimen and an opportunity for great shots through the window! We have had foxes birth under some of our small out buildings in the past. Usually, we have a large fox population here, but the last two years with a high coyote population, we’ve seen the number of foxes dwindle.

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