September is FOX MONTH here at Calgary Wildlife. Did you know that foxes are solitary creatures and do not form packs like wolves and coyotes?
It's true, however despite being solitary, they are still monogamous animals, and den together in family “leashes,” “skulks” or “earths” while raising their young.
The red fox is the species we most often see here in Alberta, and in the rest of Canada. Interestingly, the red fox is also the most widely distributed and populous carnivore in the world! Foxes are omnivores, meaning that they eat a varied diet of small mammals and birds, fruit, insects and other foods. With such a varied diet and distribution, it's clear that the fox shows serious adaptability to their environments.
Including the red fox, there are four species of foxes that live in Canada. The other species being the grey fox, Arctic fox and the endangered swift fox.
Stay tuned for more fabulous fox facts, as we explore more about our local fox species all this month.
For our second FOX MONTH post, we will explore a little bit more about each of the four fox species found here in Canada. From Arctic foxes and swift foxes, to grey foxes and our most common red foxes, each species has some interesting adaptations, so let's explore them.
Arctic foxes have fur which is the warmest of any animal! Arctic foxes can thrive in temperatures lower than -50 C, and live farther north than any other land-based mammal (sightings have been recorded near the North Pole!) Artic foxes eat mostly lemmings as their main diet staple, and can eat 12 or more lemmings a day.
Swift foxes are the smallest species of foxes found here in Canada. Adults only weigh between two and three kilograms — not much more than a Chihuahua, and they are about the size of a house cat. However, the swift fox definitely lives up to its name, being able to run at speeds of over 50 km/h. While once extirpated in Canada, the Canadian Swift Fox Reintroduction Program brought the species back and is considered one of the most successful species reintroduction stories in Canada. Between 1983 and 1997, more than 900 animals were released in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The grey fox is the only member of the dog family that can climb trees, and do so to hunt or for safety, scrambling up trunks and jumping between branches with great agility. Their dens are usually made close to ground level, but have been recorded in hollow spaces in tree trunks or branches as much as 10 metres above the forest floor.
Red foxes are not always red, you read that correctly. While most red foxes have red fur, other colour variations may occur, including brown, silver and black. All these colours are possible to be seen. Nature is amazing!
All foxes have a repertoire of more than 20 vocalizations, including various barks, whines and squeals used to communicate with family members, threaten rival foxes and attract mates. The most unsettling of these sounds is the almost human-sounding (and sometimes hair-raising) contact call described as the fox “scream.” While males scream occasionally, the sound is most commonly utilized by vixens (female foxes) during mating season.
Stay tuned for our next FOX MONTH post about living in harmony with our urban fox friends.
Did you know that foxes are normally wary and unlikely to approach humans? For our final FOX MONTH post, let's talk about living in harmony with our fox friends.
While foxes are unlikely to approach humans, we humans often live near and with other animals and foods that foxes find interesting or see as potential food sources.
The easiest way to prevent human-fox conflicts and keep our local foxes wild and safe, is to make your property completely uninteresting to them. It really can be that simple.
Here are some ways to make your home downright boring to local foxes:
- Remove shelter. Foxes may seek cover in spaces under decks and patios or in brush piles, wood piles or construction debris. Clear out any debris and use chicken wire to close off the openings under structures that can serve as possible shelter for the fox.
- Remove food. Foxes are efficient hunters and can easily feed themselves.
Remove all possible food sources from your back yard, such as loose garbage. Make sure the compost pile is tightly covered, feed your pets indoors and store pet food inside. Store your garbage and recycling in containers that have tight-fitting lids. Garbage cans that are in poor repair should be replaced. Clean up fallen fruit, bird seed, garbage, and other things that attract mice and squirrels. Clean up dog feces from your back yard as feces can attract other canid species such as coyotes.
Talk to your neighbours about removing potential wildlife shelter and food sources from their yards as well. Please understand that removing individual foxes will only create a vacancy for another animal to move into, the key is removing the food and shelter options, not the animal.
We hope you have enjoyed our series of FOX MONTH posts and have learned a whole lot about the foxes we share our country with. Foxes are beautiful and interesting animals, help us keep them wild!