This is a busy time of year for red foxes. They are on the move and they are mating.

Red foxes are like other wild dogs and they hunt primarily at night. Yet, they may extend this activity into daytime during the winter, when prey is harder to catch.

They like to sleep in the open during the midday, curling up on the snow in some spot protected from wind, sunning themselves while keeping a watchful eye or ear for intruders.

A red fox measures out to a little more than 3 feet. It’s bushy 16-inch tail aids its balance; is used as a warm cover in cold weather; and is a signal flag to communicate with other foxes. A fox can weigh as much as 14 pounds. It’s thick winter coat is usually some shade of yellowish-red.

Found throughout Minnesota, foxes prefer farmland, semi-open country and forest communities, but they also adapt to urban areas. They mainly eat meat, including squirrels, rabbits, muskrats, mice, fish and birds. In spring, summer and fall, they add a variety of insects, frogs, and fruits and vegetables to their diet.

Red foxes are relatively solitary animals but by late January and into February, the students and I sometimes see two sets of fox prints, side-by-side. They are probably monogamous for one season at a time, but may mate for life. They breed from late January into February, and the females usually bear four to six young after a 51-day gestation.


Jim Gilbert taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.