While a common sight, foxes are vulnerable to predators, disease
By Mike Lynch
Naturalist Tom Kalinowski was hiking in Denali Park in Alaska about eight years ago when he encountered a familiar animal: a red fox.
“Wow, this is incredible that they would be way up there,” he recalled thinking at the time.
That’s a big difference between gray and red foxes. Grays aren’t found north of southern Canada, but reds can be found from Florida to Alaska.
“A red fox’s fur can insulate them up to about 45-50 degrees below zero,” said Kalinowski, a retired high school biology teacher and author of natural history books.
That makes them a good candidate to live in the Adirondacks.
Red foxes generally have a thick yellow or reddish orange fur, except the bottom of their faces and undersides, which are white.
A common sight
Although the state Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t have a population estimate for red foxes, they are common throughout the state and Adirondacks. Part of the reason is their ability to live in a variety of habitats. They thrive in agricultural areas, fields, and hardwood and conifer forests, and can be found at the lowest and highest elevations.
Of course, they are vulnerable to predators, including birds of prey, bobcats and coyotes.
“Coyotes may have a significant impact, with some studies finding red foxes moving into more developed areas to avoid overlap with coyote home ranges,” according to the DEC. “Most human-related mortality comes from road collisions and hunting and trapping.”
About 3,500 red foxes are harvested annually by hunters and trappers, the DEC reports.
Disease also kills red foxes, and they are particularly susceptible to sarcoptic mange, a skin infection from mites with a very high mortality rate in red foxes, DEC said. Canine distemper and rabies can also kill them.
An omnivore, red foxes eat anything from berries to roadkill. Mice, voles, snowshoe hares are staples, according to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
“They’re opportunistic,” Kalinowski said. “They’ll eat vegetable matter, like berries and fruits and things of that sort, just as much as they will small mice or rodents.”
One of their amazing skills is the ability to sense small rodents under the snow. When this happens, they’ll leap into the air and dive headfirst into the snow.
“They’ll just kind of pounce down and then dig right down and grab the animal,” Kalinowski said. ‘
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