10 fantastic fox facts

You may recognise the red fox, but what about the kit or swift fox? Find out all about these cat-like carnivores with these bite-sized facts

1. They have  magnetic powers

Like a hidden superpower, foxes are tuned in to the Earth’s magnetic field. Many other animals use a magnetic sense to orientate them during migration, but the fox is the only known animal to use it for hunting.

Red fox jumps high in the air before diving into the snow nose first for a rodent in the winter in Utah USA.
Fox use the Earth’s magnetic field to help them hunt

2. Foxes could be the oldest canine in the world

The oldest known Vulpes fossil we have to date is from Vulpes riffautae. It is now extinct, but as the fossil is around seven million years old, it is highly likely to be the earliest Canidae.

3. Foxes change fur with the seasons

To help them blend into their environment, many species’ fur colour changes with the season. Arctic foxes are white in the winter and grey in the summer, for example. It helps the fox camouflage to stay hidden and lowers the risk of predation.

Arctic Fox in snow close-up
White fur helps the Arctic fox stay hidden in the white snow

4. They team up with brown bears

Tibetan sand foxes sometimes work with bears to catch prey, particularly when hunting pikas. The bears dig out their dens, while the foxes make a grab for the pikas as they run from the bears.

An Alaskan Brown Bear with her cub
An Alaskan Brown Bear with her cub

5. Although they are carnivores, they will eat jam sandwiches

Foxes will eat almost anything, despite being considered primarily as carnivores. From small mammals and insects, to birds and jam sandwiches, they are the ultimate opportunistic eater.

A tasty snack for or vulpine pals
A tasty snack for or vulpine pals

6. They’ve got whiskers on their ankles

Foxes have whiskers, like cats and dogs do, but a fox’s whiskers are longer than a dog’s and more closely resemble those of cats. They also have whiskers around their ankles, which act as feelers. This extra sense helps the fox navigate through burrows in the dark.

Amsterdam waterleidingduinen there is a family of red foxes in close up
Ankle-whiskers help a fox find his or her way in the dark

 

7. Most wild foxes do not see their third birthday

A fox’s life expectancy is around ten years, but in the wild they rarely make it past three years of age due to hunting and environmental pressures such as disease.

8. Kit foxes don’t drink water

Like many desert animals, the kit fox is able to survive without drinking water and acquires what it needs from prey alone. They are mostly carnivorous but if food is scarce, kit foxes have been known to nibble on the local produce, eating tomatoes and cactus fruits.

naturepl_01502110_kit-fox
The kit fox gets much of its fluid intake from eating

9.  Foxes use public toilets

Some foxes such as kit foxes, swift foxes and Arctic foxes defecate in latrines. For foxes this is a hole dug in the ground for other local foxes to do their business in. It really is a mark of how intelligent these animals are when you think about it. Humans started using toilets to keep the street clean and to reduce the spread of disease, and animals like foxes use communal latrines for the same purpose. Not all foxes do this and species that are susceptible to predation avoid visiting latrines. It can make them more vulnerable, as predators on the lookout will know where to find them as they can see where they have been from their faeces and can follow the scent of their urine to track them down.

Gansu pika (Ochotona cansus) latrine, Koko Nor lake, Tso Ngonbo, Qinghai Hu, Qinghai Province, Tibet, Amdo, China
A fox public toilet

10. There’s no such thing as an urban fox

We hear about urban foxes all the time; however they aren’t a separate species. It is just the name given to a fox that visits urban areas from time to time and most of these animals also spend time in rural settings. It is probably more accurate to call them suburban foxes, but it’s not as catchy.

World of Animals issue 41 is available from all good retailers, or you can order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of World of Animals magazine, make sure you subscribe today!