- Published: 24 April 2008
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Holly Taylor, age 8, of Lowell, Mass., for her question:
WHAT DOES THE FOX EAT?
All of the many species of foxes are about the same size. They resemble dogs, but unlike most dogs, foxes have bushy tails, pointed ears and long, sharp snouts. Foxes eat almost any animal they can catch easily, especially mice and other kinds of rodents.
Foxes living in the wilds also hunt birds, frogs, insects, lizards and rabbits.
In addition, foxes alsoseat many kinds of fruit and the remains of dead animals. Most species hide the uneaten parts of their prey. They dig a shallow hole, drop the meat in and spread dirt over it. A fox returns to the stored food, both to feed and, apparently, to check on it.
Some foxes will prey on farmers' chickens if the birds roam freely or if the chicken coops are not closed tightly. But this doesn't happen often.
Farmers usually consider the foxes to be friends. In some areas where the foxes have been killed off, rodents increase so much that farmers have brought in other foxes.
Foxes hunt mostly at night and remain active the entire year long. Often they roam the meadows and listen for the squeaks of mice. The grass conceals the mice, but if a fox sees a slight movement of the blades in the grass, it jumps into the spot.
A fox sometimes stands on its hind legs to get a better view in tall grass. A fox may lie in wait and pounce on a ground squirrel or a woodchuck as the victim leaves its burrow.
Foxes live in family groups while the young are growing up. At other times, they live alone or in pairs. They do not form packs as wolves do.
Foxes can communicate with one another with growls, yelps and short yapping barks. A fox also makes scent stations by urinating at various spots. The scent stations tell foxes in the area that another fox is present.
Baby foxes are sometimes born in the late winter, but more often they are born in the early spring. A newborn fox is a tiny creature and it only weighs about four ounces.
The fox is an excellent hunter. The animal can easily catch a dodging rabbit. It can also creep silently toward a bird, and then rush up and pounce on it.
Foxes have keen hearing and excellent senses of smell. The animals depend on these two senses for locating prey. A red fox can hear a mouse squeak more than 100 feet away. Foxes also quickly see moving objects but sometimes do not notice motionless ones.
The eyes of baby foxes are closed when they are born. The eyes open about nine days after birth. Then the baby foxes begin to eat some solid food and leave their den for short periods of time. Later, the pups wrestle with one another and pounce on insects, leaves, sticks and their parents' tails. A female will have from four to nine pups at a time.
As the babies grow, the adults will bring live mice for the young to pounce on. Later, the adults also show the pups how to stalk prey.