Red Fox, Cross Fox, Silver Fox
Value of species
Game (hunting) species
The subspecies griffithi, montana and pusilla (=leucopus) are listed on CITES – Appendix III (India).
Vulpes vulpes anatolica Thomas, 1920
Vulpes vulpes hellenica Douma-Petridou & Ondrias, 1980
Vulpes vulpes ichnusae Miller, 1907
Vulpes vulpes silacea Miller, 1907
Vulpes vulpes stepensis Ognev, 1924
Vulpes vulpes vulpes (Linnaeus, 1758)
A recent extensive global phylogeny of Red Foxes that included ~1,000 samples from across the species’ range found that Red Foxes originated in the Middle East, then radiated out, and that Red Foxes in North America are genetically distinct and probably merit recognition as a distinct species (Vulpes fulva) (Statham et al. 2014).
The Red Fox has the widest geographical range of any member of the order Carnivora (covering nearly 70 million km²) being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to southern North America, Europe, North Africa, the Asiatic steppes, India, and Japan. Not found in Iceland, the Arctic islands, or some parts of Siberia. Red Foxes are generally considered extinct in the Republic of Korea where there have been several mammal surveys in recent years (including the DMZ) that have not shown any evidence of foxes.
The European subspecies was introduced into the eastern United States (where they were relatively scarce and the Gray Fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus common) and Canada in the 17th century for fox hunting; however, there appears to be limited evidence for any meaningful mixing of introduced European foxes and those in North America (i.e., no Eurasian haplotypes found in foxes sampled; Statham et al. 2012). The species was also introduced to Australia in the 1800s, and to Tasmania in the late 1990s (although there is evidence that an eradication campaign for Red Foxes on Tasmania has proved effective; see Caley et al. 2015). Elsewhere introduced to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and to the Isle of Man (UK), although they never properly established on the Isle of Man (Reynolds and Short 2003) and may subsequently have disappeared.
Red Fox density is highly variable. In the United Kingdom, density varies between one fox/40 km² in Scotland and 1.17/km² in Wales, but can be as high as 30 foxes/km² in some urban areas where food is superabundant (Harris 1977, Macdonald and Newdick 1982, Harris and Rayner 1986). Social group density is one family per km² in farmland, but may vary between 0.2-5 families/km² in the suburbs (Macdonald 1981). Fox density in mountainous rural areas of Switzerland is three foxes/km² (Meia 1994). Murdoch (2009) recorded 0.17 foxes/km² in the grassland/semi desert steppe of Mongolia. In northern boreal forests and Arctic tundra, they occur at densities of 0.1 foxes/km², and in southern Ontario, Canada at 1 fox/km² (Voigt 1987). The average social group density in the Swiss mountains is 0.37 families/km² (Weber et al. 1999).
The pre-breeding British fox population has been estimated at ~240,000 individuals (Harris et al. 1995). Mean number of foxes killed per unit area by gamekeepers has increased steadily since the early 1960s in Britain, but it is not clear to what extent this reflects an increase in fox abundance. Although an increase in fox numbers following successful rabies control by vaccination was widely reported in Europe (e.g., fox bag in Germany has risen from 250,000 in 1982–1983 to 600,000 in 2000–2001), no direct measures of population density have been taken.
Red Foxes have been recorded in habitats as diverse as tundra, desert (though not extreme deserts) and forest, as well as in city centres (including London, Paris, Stockholm, etc.). Natural habitat is dry, mixed landscape, with abundant "edge" of scrub and woodland. They are also abundant on moorlands, mountains (even above the treeline, known to cross alpine passes), sand dunes and farmland from sea level to 4,500 m. In the United Kingdom, they generally prefer mosaic patchworks of scrub, woodland and farmland. Red Foxes flourish particularly well in urban areas. They are most common in residential suburbs consisting of privately owned, low-density housing and are less common where industry, commerce or council rented housing predominates (Harris and Smith 1987). In many habitats, foxes appear to be closely associated with people, even thriving in intensive agricultural areas.
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