Frequently Asked Questions
General questions on fox ecology and behaviour:
- How big are foxes?
- How long do foxes live?
- Do foxes hunt in packs?
- Do foxes kill and eat their young?
- Do cubs kill and eat each other?
- Do foxes have any natural predators?
TopHow big are foxes?
They are surprisingly small; the average weight of a dog fox in mainland Britain is 6.8 kg (15 lbs), for a vixen 5.7 kg (12.5 lbs). Whilst heavier foxes (up to 10 kg or 22 lbs) occur occasionally, they are not much taller or longer than average, and the extra weight is largely due to accumulated fat. To put this into perspective, foxes are a little heavier than the average pet cat, but less than half the weight, and about three-quarters the height, of a whippet. So foxes are small animals, although their long fur coat makes them look bigger than they really are. A common statement is that "I have just seen a fox as big as an Alsatian". German shepherd dogs (Alsatians) are twice as tall as a fox and weigh roughly six times as much. No one has ever seen a fox anywhere near the size of an Alsatian.
TopHow long do foxes live?
In the wild, not long: mortality rates generally vary between 50% and 70% per annum. At 50% per annum, only a quarter of foxes live to be two years old, 12% to three years, 6% to four years, and very few make it beyond six years. Exceptionally, a wild fox may survive for ten years but by then it will be very arthritic and lost most of its teeth, so that only a few yellowed stumps remain. In captivity, foxes may live up to fourteen years.
TopDo foxes hunt in packs?
No: this is a myth. Foxes hunt alone, and it is uncommon to see two or more adult foxes together away from their earth (den). Foxes move and hunt alone; they occasionally meet other members of the social group during the night, but these social contacts generally last no more than a minute or two. During the summer larger cubs may follow the vixen when she is out hunting, but normally she catches the prey and then passes it to the cubs. The cubs appear to learn by watching the vixen rather than by participating in the hunt.
TopDo foxes kill and eat their young?
It is not that common, but it does happen. If more than one vixen in a group breeds, the litter of the subordinate vixen is sometimes (but not invariably) killed, either by her or the dominant vixen. The cubs are then often eaten. Very rarely, a vixen may kill the cubs of a vixen living on an adjacent territory and bringing them back for her own cubs to eat.
TopDo cubs kill and eat each other?
For the first few weeks of life, cubs fight to establish dominance, and the weaker cubs may be killed: around 20% of cubs die in the first four weeks of life, probably as a result of these fights. Older cubs are sometimes also killed. Any dead cub, however it dies, is likely to be eaten by its littermates; there is no point in wasting a valuable source of food!
TopDo foxes have any natural predators?
Yes: in Britain, cubs are killed by golden eagles and badgers, and elsewhere by several other predators. In Europe and America adult foxes are occasionally killed by wolves, coyotes, bears, and various other predators. However, the number killed is generally low and, other than coyotes, is not believed to have an impact on fox numbers.