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Vulpes vulpes

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA CANIDAE

Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Red Fox, Silver Fox, Cross Fox
French RENARD, Renard Roux
Spanish ZORRO, Zorro Rojo

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Macdonald, D.W. & Reynolds, J.C.
Reviewer(s): Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)
Justification:
The Red Fox has the widest geographical range of any member of the order Carnivora, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the Asiatic steppes. Red Foxes are adaptable and opportunistic omnivores and are capable of successfully occupying urban areas. In many habitats, foxes appear to be closely associated with man, even thriving in intensive agricultural areas. The species currently is not under threat.
History:
2004 Least Concern

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the Asiatic steppes, the Red Fox has the widest geographical range of any member of the order Carnivora (covering nearly 70 million km²). Not found in Iceland, the Arctic islands, some parts of Siberia, or in extreme deserts. European subspecies introduced into eastern United States and Canada in 17th century, subsequently mixed with local subspecies. The species was also introduced to Australia in 1800s. Elsewhere introduced to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and to the Isle of Man (UK), although it may subsequently have disappeared there.
Countries:
Native:
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Andorra; Armenia (Armenia); Austria; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Belgium; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Canada; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Egypt; Estonia; Faroe Islands; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Gibraltar; Greece; Greenland; Holy See (Vatican City State); Hungary; Iceland; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Kyrgyzstan; Latvia; Lebanon; Libya; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Malta; Monaco; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Myanmar; Nepal; Netherlands; Norway; Pakistan; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; San Marino; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; United Kingdom; Uzbekistan
Introduced:
Australia; New Zealand
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Red Fox density is highly variable. In the UK, density varies between one fox per 40 km² in Scotland and 1.17/km² in Wales, but can be as high as 30 foxes per 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 per km² in the suburbs and as few as a single family per 10 km² in barren uplands (Macdonald 1981; Lindsay and Macdonald 1986). Fox density in mountainous rural areas of Switzerland is three foxes per km² (Meia 1994). In northern boreal forests and Arctic tundra, they occur at densities of 0.1/km², and in southern Ontario, Canada at 1/km² (Voigt 1987). The average social group density in the Swiss mountains is 0.37 family per km² (Weber et al. 1999).

The pre-breeding British fox population totals an estimated 240,000 (Harris et al. 1995). Mean number of foxes killed per unit area by gamekeepers has increased steadily since the early 1960s in 10/10 regional subdivisions of 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.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Red Foxes have been recorded in habitats as diverse as tundra, desert 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), deserts, sand dunes and farmland from sea level to 4,500 m. In the UK, 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 man, even thriving in intensive agricultural areas.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threats include habitat degradation, loss, and fragmentation, and exploitation, and direct and indirect persecution. However, the Red Fox's versatility and eclectic diet are likely to ensure their persistence despite changes in landscape and prey base. Culling may be able to reduce numbers well below carrying capacity in large regions (Heydon and Reynolds 2000), but no known situations exist where this currently threatens species persistence on any geographical scale. There are currently bounties on subspecies V. v. pusilla (desert foxes) in Pakistan to protect game birds such as Houbara bustards (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii), with a high hunting value.

The number of foxes raised for fur (although much reduced since the 1900s) exceeds that of any other species, except possibly mink (Mustela vison) (Obbard 1987). Types farmed are particularly colour variants ("white", "silver" and "cross") that are rare in the wild.

Worldwide trade in ranched red fox pelts (mainly "silver" pelts from Finland) was 700,000 in 1988–1989 (excluding internal consumption in the USSR). Active fur trade in Britain in 1970s was negligible.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Not listed in CITES Appendices at species level. V. v. necator in the Sierra Nevada, California, USA, is rare, possibly declining (Nowak 1991). The subspecies griffithi, montana and pusilla (=leucopus) are listed as CITES – Appendix III (India).

Present in most temperate-subarctic conservation areas with the exception of some inaccessible islands in the Old World and South America. Widely regarded as a pest and unprotected. Most countries and/or states where trapping or hunting occurs have regulated closed versus open seasons and restrictions on methods of capture. In the European Union, Canada, and the Russian Federation, trapping methods are regulated under an agreement on international trapping standards between these countries, which was signed in 1997. Other countries are signatories to ISO/DIS 10990-5.2 animal (mammal) traps, which specifies standards for trap testing.

Foxes are highly persecuted and heavily hunted in Afghanistan, however, it is an adaptable species that produces large litters. Therefore the Government of Afghanistan has listed V. vulpes as a harvestable species (with regular monitoring of populations to ensure hunting does not qualify the fox for a protected status in the future).

In Europe and North America, hunting traditions and/or legislation impose closed seasons on fox hunting. In the UK and a few other European countries, derogation from these provisions allows breeding season culling for pest-control purposes. Here, traditional hunting ethics encouraging restrained "use" may be at odds with harder hitting pest-control ambitions. This apparent conflict between different interest groups is particularly evident in the UK, where fox control patterns are highly regionally variable (Macdonald et al. 2003). In some regions, principal lowland areas where classical mounted hunting operates, limited economic analyses suggest that the principal motive for these communal fox hunts is as a sport – the number killed is small compared with the cost of the hunting. In these regions, most anthropogenic mortality is by individual farmers shooting foxes. The mounted communal hunts do exhibit restraint – hunting takes place for a limited season, and for a prescribed number of days per week. Elsewhere, in upland regions, communal hunting by foot with guns and dogs may make economic sense, depending on the number of lambs lost to foxes (data on this is poor), and also on the current value of lost lambs. This type of fox hunting may also be perceived as a sport by its participants.

An individual deciding whether or not to control foxes, and by what means, has a complex set of factors to consider, including other interest groups, practicality and economics. For some farmers, there is evidence that a decision to control foxes may be economically perverse. Macdonald et al. (2003) modelled the interactions between foxes, rabbits, and rabbit-induced crop damage. For some farmers at least, a decision to kill a fox may, in some circumstances, cost that farmer a significant amount of crop loss to the rabbits that the fox and its descendants would have killed.

In addition to fur farms, Red Foxes are widely kept in small wildlife parks and zoos, but there appears to be no systematic data on their breeding success. Being extremely shy they are often poor exhibits.

Citation: Macdonald, D.W. & Reynolds, J.C. 2008. Vulpes vulpes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 July 2014.
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