Fox populations: Overview

Red foxes or foxes, as they are commonly known, are currently the most common and widely distributed of all wild carnivores.

Foxes are native in most of the northern hemisphere and their geographical distribution spans from North America to Eurasia and Japan. The northern limit of this distribution is the Arctic Circle and the southern is Central America, North Africa and the Asian steppes.

Foxes as invasive species

Close up a fox in Australia
An Australian fox. Image taken from feral.org.au Image gallery; © NSW DPI

European red foxes have been introduced to Australia (1800), the United States and Canada (1600-1700) and various other locations in the northern hemisphere. Recently, they have been also introduced into Tasmania. In North America foxes rapidly spread, it is thought that this happened at the expense of the local fox subspecies (Vulpes vulpes fulva). The British introduced foxes into Australia for hunting.

Foxes readily adapt to new environments and so are very successful invasive species. They quickly occupy new areas (in Australia foxes colonised most of the continent in about 100 years) and generally prey on native species, which are easily caught. This, in many cases, has lead to a marked decrease in prey species. For instance, in Australia a total of 11 birds, mammals and reptiles are known to be threatened by the fox and a further 23 species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are considered threatened.

Foxes are very adaptable animals and live in habitats as different as tundra, mountain regions, deserts and urban and suburban areas. This is why foxes can successfully colonise new environments and become invasive species, competing with and predating on the local fauna.

Explore the menu on the left to find out more about foxes in different regions. If you want more specific information on foxes in certain regions, please click on your region of interest and you will find links to other websites.

References