The fox is a small, carnivorous MAMMAL of the DOG family. Four species inhabit Canada: red or coloured, swift, grey, and Arctic foxes (Vulpes vulpes, V. velox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus, Alopex lagopus, respectively). Red and Arctic foxes have circumpolar distribution; grey and swift foxes are New World foxes; swift foxes are mostly found in the US and Mexico.

Red Fox

Red foxes are the largest of the species (2.5-6.5 kg) in Canada and may be reddish with a "cross" on the back or, rarely, black or may have silver-tipped hairs. Feet and ear tips are black; tail tip, white. Common in farming and wooded areas, they extend from the US border to the TUNDRA in all provinces, but are absent from coastal British Columbia.

They eat rodents, INSECTS, FROGS, seeds, fruit, eggs and some poultry. They breed in January and February; usually 4-5 cubs (range 1-10) are born 52-54 days later in a den of earth. Both parents feed them. Cubs become independent at about 6 months and breed in their second year.

Arctic Fox

Arctic foxes are smaller, with rounded ears and heavy, white winter fur, and dark brownish summer fur. They are normally restricted to the tundra and northern coasts. Diet is similar to that of red foxes, and they scavenge other carnivore kills. Mating is in February, with 5-6 (maximum 14) cubs born 50-57 days later. Red and Arctic foxes were farmed for their pelts, but artificial furs have reduced the market.

Grey Fox

Grey foxes, similar in food habits and size to red foxes, are slimmer, with slightly rounded ears, a black back stripe and speckled grey sides. Undersides are off-white; neck, back of ears and legs are yellowish buff. They are found in southernmost Manitoba, Ontario and Québec.

They prefer wooded or broken country and live in hollow logs or overhangs. Grey foxes often climb trees, enjoy sunning themselves and are not strictly nocturnal. Mating is in February to March with litters averaging 4 cubs (range 1-7), born about 63 days later. Young become independent in autumn and breed the following season.

Swift Fox

The swift fox is the smallest Canadian fox. It occurred from southern Alberta to southwestern Manitoba but was considered extirpated from Canada by 1970. Individuals selected from a captive population, bred from animals obtained from Colorado in 1972, have been released since 1983 in the short-grass prairie of southeastern Alberta, near Manyberries and Medicine Hat, and in southwestern Saskatchewan. Some successful breeding in the wild is recorded. Its habits are essentially the same as those of red foxes.

See alsoFUR FARMING.