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Wednesday's Wildlife: Calgary Foxes

A Calgary golf course has just opened and a red fox trots along the fairway tree line, unbothered by the golfers. Is it a cause for concern that it’s out in the daytime? What role do foxes play in the urban ecosystem?

 

Red foxes are primarily crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn.  However, they are also adaptive, and can adjust their foraging times to avoid overlapping with larger predators. For example, red foxes have been found to take on nocturnal habits to reduce interactions with city dogs. But what about daytime foraging?


Fox kit running through the grass.
Figure 1: Juvenile fox.

 

Foxes can be active in the daytime, especially when they have young to feed which can be as early as March.  The male and female mated pair both work at feeding their litter, which averages five kits or pups. Kits are born blind with dark pelts that develops into the fox’s adult colouring after about two months. There is variation in the red fox’s coat—not all of them are orange! After spending the spring and summer as a family unit, the juveniles disperse in the fall to find their own territory.



Red fox and black-billed magpies foraging in the winter.
Figure 2: Red fox and black-billed magpies foraging in the winter.

Fox intelligence and adaptive behaviour are likely how the fox has managed to become the widest ranging carnivore globally. The red fox range extends across North America, Europe, Asia, North Africa and Australia. While it has a large range, its numbers aren’t necessarily increasing, as in some areas it competes with other predators like the coyote. The red fox’s success inhabiting human-modified landscapes is likely due to its adaptable behaviour, including learning to forage on a golf course while ignoring nearby human activity.

 

In some parts of the world, foxes are a common carrier of rabies.  However, there hasn’t been a documented case in Alberta since the 1950’s.  Like all wildlife, foxes can carry parasites and diseases, which is why they are best enjoyed from a distance.

 


Red fox pouncing on rodent, mouse or vole, under snow.
Figure 3: Red fox pouncing on rodents under the snow.

Red foxes are skilled hunters with a varied diet, and known to listen and track mice and voles moving beneath the snow before enacting a pounce. They also consume snowshoe hares, small birds, berries, and insects.  Foxes are opportunistic feeders and can be attracted by unsecure food waste.  This is not ideal fox food! Keeping garbage bins secure, and pet food indoors, encourages foxes to continue foraging from natural, healthy food sources.

 

Unfortunately, because fox diets largely consist of rodents, they are often victims of rodenticide. This is one way fox kits are orphaned and brought to the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society. Avoiding the use of poison or glue-traps reduces the number of foxes affected. 

 

Calgary Wildlife Comic titled "What does the fox say?" which shows sound effect examples of sounds made by red foxes including the fox scream.
Figure 4: Calgary Wildlife Comic: What does the fox say?


Fox sounds are diverse.  Gekkering is a stuttering throaty vocalization foxes make when encountering a rival.  Foxes also “scream” when defending their territory or when attracting a mate.  The whine, squeal, chatter and “wow-wow-wow” calls are just some of the over twenty vocalizations attributed to the fox. Foxes have a lot to say!



If you observe a wild animal in need of help, please call our hotline at:

403-214-1312.

 

 

 

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