Foxes have been found in folklore and fables for hundreds of years. They are represented as cunning, wise, adaptable and at times treacherous. All of these attributes make them a well fitted resident of our South Carolina Lowcountry.
The red fox, Vulpes vulpes, is the largest of the true foxes and spread through many areas of the world. It is thought that their species moved from Asia to the Americas by crossing the Bering land bridge as far back as 300,000 years ago. Their fur is most commonly red with white underbellies, but silver, black and cross-coloring are occasionally found in the species. The most distinguishing mark is their white-tipped tail. They can weigh between 7 and 14 pounds and will reach lengths of three to four feet long. Males are known as dogs, females are vixens and babies are kits. They communicate through vocalizations, facial expressions and scent marking. There are 28 known vocalizations used by red foxes.
Red foxes can be found around all of South Carolina. They tend to stay near agricultural areas, pastures, mixed vegetation, woods and, at times, suburban zones. As solitary animals, they establish ranges. At times, a single male and up to two females may occupy the same range. They will occasionally fight over territory, especially if food is involved. Individual foxes create a main or natal den that will be 15 to 20 feet long. Foxes will use other animals’ abandoned dens as emergency burrows for quick escapes and often have several in their territories. They are mainly nocturnal animals, being more heard than seen at night. On Hilton Head, they are most commonly spotted at sunrise or sunset.
Red foxes are omnivorous. Insects and carrion make up the majority of their diet. They are known to hunt down small rodents, rabbits and birds, including chickens and turkeys. During the summer, fruit and berries are added to their diet.
In the South Carolina Lowcountry, red foxes begin to pair up for breeding in late fall and early winter.
The pair will share a den until the young are born. Gestations last up to 53 days with vixens bearing between four to eight kits. The kits stay in the den for the first month of their life, with their eyes opening after 10 days. Nursing may last up to eight weeks, after which the mated pair will bring regurgitated food and then live rodents for hunting practice. The kits will stay with the vixen until fall. At times, young females stay with their mother to care for the new litter. Red foxes reach their maturity at 10-months old. The oldest red fox documented in the wild was 12-years-old.
Red fox populations tend to stay consistent, but do have a small decline over time. Kits can be hunted by owls and hawks. Adults and young are susceptible to car accidents. Fox populations are also influenced by rabies and mange outbreaks. It is said that red foxes contract rabies more often than other animals, leading to up to two human-bite-related cases a year. There is worry for the red fox populations, as coyotes move in and take over their hunting territories.
H2O Sports is a great place to spark curiosity and inspire learning through adventure in all ages, offering eco-adventure tours and a live alligator exhibit. To make reservations for the Alligator and Wildlife Tour, please call 877-290-4386. For additional information, visit www.H2OSports.com.