Wildlife In Focus | Red Fox

David Coultham

Species Guide: Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Click here to display content from YouTube.
Learn more in YouTube’s privacy policy.

Video | Everything You Need To Know About The Red Fox


As its name suggests, the Red Fox has predominantly red-orange fur with white fur on their necks and tummy. Their legs and ears are either black or dark brown. Their bushy tails range from red to brown or even black coloration with a white tip.

Image Credit | WildMediaSK


Red Foxes are omnivorous with a diet of small mammals, birds, insects, fruit, carrion, and food scavenged from human food waste.


They can be found throughout the British Isles except for some of the Scottish Islands such as the Isles of Skye and Harris. They have adapted particularly well to urban environments and it is in these environments that you are more likely to spot them due to the availability of food.

Note that this map is for a rough illustration of animal distribution across the UK1, whereby light green indicates established populations.


They are nocturnal animals by nature, but can be seen at dawn and dusk; particularly during the summer when daylight is longer. Dominant males control territories of land which can be as large as 40 square kilometers in rural areas, though in urban areas territories are significantly smaller; possibly due to the higher availability of scavenged food.

Red Foxes form family groups consisting of the dominant male and female, and their offspring. They sometimes form larger adult groups based on food availability. Normally though, only the dominant pair will have offspring, which are born in the spring and consist of up to 5 cubs, and are fully weaned after approximately 7 weeks. The cubs reach adult size within 7-8 months and can bear their own young after 1 year.

Image Credit | WildMediaSK


Body Length262 to 72 cm
Tail Length240 cm
Body Weight25 to 7 kg
Longevity1 to 3 Years


Red Foxes can be predated upon by some of the U.K.’s large raptors such as Golden Eagles and White Tailed Eagles; although this is rare. In Europe and the rest of the world, they can also be predated upon by wolves and some large cats such as leopards.

Conservation Status

Whilst fox hunting has been banned in the U.K., the Protection Of Wild Animals Act 2002 appears to provide very little protection from land owners intent on killing these animals for fun and sport. The usual excuses prevail that foxes threaten their livestock, that populations need to be managed to protect bird life, and that hunts now use fake scent trails.

A recent scientific study on Red Fox population control3 made some interesting observations:

  • The measures put in place to manage Red Fox Populations have no impact on population density as they replace the effects of natural mortality.
  • Most shooting estates have few or no resident foxes, so there is a constant influx of foxes into the vacant habitat patch, and as fast as one fox is removed another is likely to replace it.
  • Changes in food availability as a result of changes in land use affect Red Fox populations and, not levels of pest control.
  • Livestock losses appear to be unrelated to the density of predators and therefore there is no logic in trying to reduce predator numbers to reduce livestock losses. 
  • Improved livestock management for example not putting lambs out until they are 3-5 days old has significantly improved the effects of predation than any pest control measures.

In conclusion, all the excuses put in place by landowners for Red Fox population management are no more than a smoke screen for the continued barbaric yearly cycle of killing.

So if Red Fox populations are not impacted by human population management, how do we explain the 26% decrease1 in population in previous strong-holds during the last 17 years? From a U.K. conservation standpoint, there appears to be a lack of scientific data supporting Red Fox population numbers, but there is some evidence4 supporting that changes in land use and the effects of diseases such as mange may have had an impact.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has logged the Red Fox as Least Concern from a Global Viewpoint. The same categorization is logged in the U.K. except in Scotland; whereby the Red Fox is now classed as a Near Threatened species.

Conservation Status

England, Wales, NI
Conservation Status

Conservation Status


  1. Population data based on IUCN assessment
  2. Mammal Society
  3. The Utility of Killing Foxes in Scotland Professor Stephen Harris BSc PhD DSc
Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner