Wild Profile: meet the red fox

Updated: January 16, 2019

By Ghost Bear/Shutterstock

Late December marks the start of breeding season for one of Canada’s most widespread mammals, the secretive and clever red fox.

Red foxes are largely nocturnal. Their eyes are highly light-sensitive and better adapted to seeing in the dark, thanks to a special reflective layer of cells behind the retina. When the cold season hits, however, scarce food resources force these gingers to hunt during daylight hours—which is why you’re more likely to spot them out and about in the winter.

Red foxes have keen hearing. They can hone in on a mouse squeaking from 45 metres away and detect rodent prey travelling underneath the snow. (Their sense of smell, on the other hand, is only decent—at least, it’s not as powerful as a domestic dog’s.) But a red fox’s most useful tool might be that bushy tail, called a “brush” or a “sweep.” The foxes use their 40-cm-long tails for communication, balance, and to keep warm: they wrap the furry lengths around themselves and tuck their noses underneath, as if huddling under a blanket. Hey, sounds cozy!

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