Baby foxes can go by a few different names. They can be called cups, pups, or kits. While different breeds of foxes will have different reproductive patterns, foxes will usually give birth to between 4 to 5 young at a time.
These pups will need to be protected by their mother until they are able to fend for themselves. Read on to learn some general facts about foxes and about baby foxes in particular.
Facts About Foxes
Foxes are small omnivorous members of the Canidae family. While there are other canids sometimes referred to as foxes, the members of the “true fox” family consist of 12 different species assigned to the genus Vulpes. Out of these 12 different species, the most common and widespread species of fox is the red fox, which has about 47 different subspecies that can be found in many different parts of the world, including: most of North America, all throughout Asia and Europe, and in parts of the Middle East, and even in portions of Australia where it has been introduced.
Foxes are among the smaller members of the Canidae family, and unlike wolves or jackals, they tend to cap out at around a maximum of 8.7 kg or 20 pounds. As for minimum size, foxes can be only a few pounds/kg in weight, such as the fennec fox which usually weighs between 0.7 to 1.6 kg.
The fur of the fox can differ greatly between species, being different in density, length, and coloration. The fox’s coat often changes between seasons, with the coat becoming denser and thicker during the colder months and becoming much lighter during the warmer months due a process of molting that begins in spring.
Beyond this, physical characteristics of foxes also vary greatly between species. For instance, fennec foxes, which live their lives in the desert, have short fur and large ears which help keep their bodies cool in the high-temperature regions that they live in. Meanwhile, Arctic foxes have features that help insulate them from the cold, such as shorter ears and limbs overall as well as thick fur.
Unlike some other canids, such as wolves, foxes have a more omnivorous nature and will eat not only small vertebrates, reptiles, birds, and insects, but also plant material like berries and fruit.
Foxes are primarily nocturnal, though they will sometimes be active during the day. Foxes can hear low-frequency sounds quite well, unlike many other canids. This attribute helps them locate small animals digging underground, and they can then dig through the snow or dirt to try and catch their prey. When hunting prey above ground, foxes usually hunt by taking a low-profile, pushing themselves down to the terrain and attempting to camouflage themselves. They then leap upwards and land on top of their prey.
Foxes can make a wide variety of different vocalizations including high-pitched yelps and whimpers, and even happy noises that sound similar to the cry of a human baby. They can also make alarming screaming noises and howls similar to a coyote. The most distinctive sound that a fox can make is a noise dubbed “gekkering”, which is a noise that sounds not unlike a chuckle or high-pitched laugh.
The gray fox, along with the raccoon dog, happens to be one of the only known canine species that regularly climbs trees. Gray foxes have semi-retractable claws that will stay sharp and let the fox climb trees better.
Facts About Fox Reproduction
Foxes locate one another for reproduction through their sense of smell. They use their powerful scent glands to give off odors which help other foxes locate them. Foxes frequently form pair bonds that can potentially last an entire lifetime.
The breeding season of the fox can vary from area to area, species to species. However, in many cases foxes are able to mate year round. Due to practical issues like temperature and vegetation, the most common breeding period for many foxes is during the early weeks of winter. In the case of the red fox, it frequently mates from January to March.
In terms of the sexual characteristics of foxes, male foxes have a penile bone called a baculum. The scrotum of the male fox is tightly held near the body. The reproductive cycle of female foxes, or vixens, is approximately a year long, and the vixens will be in heat for between 1 to 6 days. Gestation usually takes between 52 to 54 days, and while the average litter sizes between 4 to 5 pups, this can vary between species. The Arctic fox may have as many as 11 pups at a time.
Baby foxes are born in a fox den, a structure that is frequently underground, which helps protect the young foxes from predators. While most dens are underground, sometimes fox dens are made in trees. Female foxes will use just about anything that they can find for their den, this includes the abandoned dens of other animals and sometimes a den created by another fox during the previous year. Female foxes will frequently make multiple dens after mating, with these extra dens serving as backups in case the original than is disturbed. When the baby foxes are born, the males of the species will usually hang around the den to assist in rearing the young.
Fox pups/kits are born deaf and blind, meaning that their survival is totally dependent upon their mother’s actions for their first few weeks of life. The mother fox must feed them with milk from her body, and the male of the pair will forage for food so the mother can stay with the pups. Fox pups have very little hair when they are first born, so their mother also needs to keep them warm.
At about one month of age, the young foxes will emerge from the den. At this point, the fox kits will still drink milk but they will begin to eat meat, over time drinking less milk and consuming more meat. The young foxes hone their hunting skills by playing with one another, chasing each other around. Within a few months, the young foxes will be able to hunt by themselves.
By the autumn, the young kits will start to fight amongst one another more aggressively, becoming less playful and more territorial. Shortly after this they will leave the brood, going their separate ways to live their own lives and look for mates.
Wild foxes have a high mortality rate, and usually more than half of wild foxes will die before they reach 10 months old. Life in nature is harsh for foxes in general, and many foxes won’t survive more than a few years in the wild due to harsh conditions. However, if conditions prove favorable they can potentially survive up to 14 years or so. In captivity, foxes have been known to live for around 20 years.
Different Kinds Of Foxes
The gray fox can be found in most of North America as well as portions of Central America. As previously mentioned, it is one of the few canids that can climb trees. The gray fox frequently preys upon the eastern cottontail rabbit, though it will also eat other small mammals like voles and birds. As an omnivorous creature, it will also eat any fruit that it can find and relies more on vegetables for its sustenance than the red fox does.
The red fox is the biggest out of all the foxes, and it can be found throughout much of the globe, across all of Europe, large parts of the Middle East, most of Asia, most of North America, and even parts of Australia where it has been introduced. Red foxes feed mainly on small rodents such as squirrels, mice, gophers, and voles. A long-running experiment in the domestication of the red fox in Russia has led to a special subtype of red fox, the domesticated red fox has resulted in fox behavior and appearances more in line with dogs.
The pampas fox is a Lycalopex, not a true fox, found in parts of South America including Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil. The pampas fox is found in wetlands and forested areas. It subsists mainly on small mammals and birds, though thanks to its proximity to wetlands it also frequently eats small amphibians, lizards, and frogs. The pampas fox is somewhat more omnivorous than other canines, eating fruit more often than canines like coyotes, other foxes, and wolves.
The fennec fox is a small fox found in North Africa in the Sahara desert. The fennec fox has extremely large ears which increases its surface area and helps the fox dissipate heat. The fox also keeps cool thanks to being nocturnal, hunting small mammals for food at night. The large ears of the fox assist them in tracking burrowing animals like lizards and rodents. Fennec foxes also eat desert plants, roots, and desert fruit. Fennec foxes can go for long periods of time without water and they have the largest ear-to-head ratio out of all animals.
The arctic fox can be found in arctic and subarctic areas like Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, Russia, Norway, and Greenland. In Iceland, the arctic fox is the only land mammal native to the country. The arctic fox has a bright white coat in the winter months, letting it blend into the snowy landscape. During the summer months, the fox’s coat turns a brown/gray that helps it camouflage itself with the rocky landscape. Arctic foxes subsist on animals like hares, voles, and lemmings as well as wild fruit, nuts, and berries during the summer. They will frequently bury extra food under the snow to save for later.