Fox Habitat: Where Do Foxes Live?
Published: December 20, 2021
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Foxes are small to medium omnivorous mammals. They are known for their ability to slip silently through the shadows while relying on their excellent senses to find their prey. They are opportunistic predators, but also skilled hunters and highly adaptable animals. But where do they live? Join us as we discover everything you need to know about fox habitat and where to live.
Where does the fox live?
Foxes live in a surprising number of habitats including forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains and even the arctic!
There are 12 species of true foxes ( Vulpes genus) and about 25 other species, often called foxes or "false foxes" because they are so similar. Foxes are found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. So it's no surprise that they actually live in a variety of different habitats, depending on location and species. Foxes are extremely adaptable, which helps them survive — and even thrive — in some pretty harsh conditions. Below are some habitats where foxes live.
forests, woodlands and meadows
Probably the most common and best-known habitats for foxes are forests, woodlands, and meadows. These habitats are home to many different species of foxes and provide a rich source of food – prey and fruit. They also provide them with ample cover to build their nests (more on nests in a moment) and good water from rivers and streams. Typically, foxes' ranges can include forest or woodland and grassland habitats, allowing them greater variety in hunting and foraging.
Desert foxes live in some of the hottest and driest climates in the world. In these dry deserts, they have to deal with extreme heat and very little water. Many times, desert foxes – such as the fennec fox – have to rely on moisture from their prey because water is so scarce. They also rely on oversized ears to help dissipate body heat. Desert foxes rely on their complex dens for shelter from the scorching sun of the day. This is because the underground temperature is much cooler than the surface temperature. Nests are usually built on sand dunes in areas with some vegetation.
Arctic and Alpine Tundra
Quite possibly the harshest habitats in which all foxes live are the snowy regions of the arctic and alpine tundra. You could be easily forgiven for assuming that only arctic foxes can tolerate these conditions, but red foxes actually live there too. Their ranges overlap, and occasionally red foxes will kill arctic foxes by digging them out of their dens.
Most of these tundras are treeless, snowy, windy and extremely cold – the average temperature is between -34 and -6°C. Arctic foxes are especially adapted to these extreme conditions. They have thick fur, including furry paw pads, and a keen sense of smell to detect prey buried in a few inches of snow. Much of the Arctic tundra is covered in permafrost. Incredibly, arctic foxes use it to store and preserve their prey in their dens.
Mountains and Plateaus
Some foxes live in very high mountains and plateaus. Tibetan foxes live on the vast Tibetan Plateau between 11,500 and 17,100 feet above sea level, while other foxes, such as the culpeo fox, live on mountain slopes. Mountain habitats include many rugged and often rocky slopes. These slopes provide them with ample cover – both for hunting and for nesting. Plateaus are plateaus, usually with vast grasslands and steep hills. They also often have the headwaters (starters/headwaters) of many rivers and streams, which provide a range of ecosystems and rich prey.
As we've already mentioned, foxes build nests (also called setts or earths). They mainly use these to raise their offspring and store food. Dens are dug in the ground by foxes, who sometimes take over the vacated den from another animal. Entrances are usually in areas with adequate vegetation or cover, such as under bushes or between rocks.
The lair consists of a series of tunnels and several excavated areas with different functions. Nests vary in size, but most have more than one entrance and can be as deep as eight feet. The length of the tunnels also varies. The average tunnel is 15 to 25 feet long, but over 50 feet is not uncommon. The basic layout of the fox den is the entrance, the downhill ramp, the main den and the food store. Most dens are large enough for a vixen to give birth and raise young in it.
Foxes usually always store food in their dens. They store food for pregnancy, feeding their young, and for winter. This is why foxes often get a bad reputation for "killing spree" (i.e. in chicken coops) and leaving trails of dead animals. However, if they are left undisturbed, the foxes will take everything they kill and store it in their den.
The main den is used to raise the young so that vixen can safely raise them. Cubs typically stay in the den for about six weeks before they begin exploring the outdoors. However, they will still stick around for a while as they gradually learn to forage and fend for themselves.
There are increasing numbers of urban foxes in cities and towns, and they have learned to adapt to their environment. Unlike typical foxes, urban foxes can make themselves a home and feel safe by making their nests under sheds, under railway embankments, under tree roots, or wherever they inhabit. Urban foxes often feed on any rats in the area and scour the trash for leftovers. Many times, people will even prepare food for them, and regular feedings will attract dens in the area. However, even though they have adapted to their urban habitat, life for urban foxes is still difficult, and deaths from traffic accidents are common.
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about the author
For many years, I have been writing professionally, with an emphasis on animals and wildlife. I love spending time outdoors, and when I'm not writing I'll be found on a farm surrounded by horses, dogs, sheep and pigs.
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