The Red Fox: Master of Adaptation



A red fox watches closely after he detects a human (Jonathan) watching him in the Brandon Township woods they both share.

The red fox (Vulpes fulva) is found in every county in Michigan, and is very much at home on the wilder (and not so wild) sides of Oakland County. These rusty-red colored predators with bushy white-tipped tails and black legs are not restricted to large woodlands, parklands and fields. Sometimes, red foxes will den near suburban homes or even in industrial areas that offer good hunting and a hiding habitat.  Fox commonly hunt near golf courses, where rabbits are easy to find and have no place to hide. It’s all a matter of adapting to opportunity and adjusting to the ways of humans that dominate their landscape.


This red fox is hunting for meadow voles in the winter; image captured by trail camera.


The red fox is an intelligent and opportunist hunter and scavenger. Like most members of the Canidae (dog) family, they eat most anything they can find, and Oakland County is the land of plenty. Mice, voles, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, berries, apples, nuts, snakes, frogs, eggs, rabbits, goslings, mink, muskrat, woodchucks and roadside carrion are all on the menu. On occasion they will scrounge around dumpsters for spillage or raid pet dishes left outside. Motion activated trail cameras reveal fox activity in close proximity to homes in Oakland County; these images in the slide show are all from Brandon Township at two different locations.

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The red fox does not pose a significant threat to humans or dogs, but a cat wandering in fox habitat may be looked at as an entrée. But the living is not always easy for the red fox; coyotes, cars and habitat destruction of denning sites pose threats in Oakland County. Never approach, try to tame or feed a fox; a fed fox will end up as a dead fox.  And contrary to myth, foxes are not strictly nocturnal.  The red fox is adapting to our ways faster than we learn about their ways, which means that an observant nature watcher may be lucky enough to encounter a fox during daylight hours.  The encounter seldom lasts long—a red fox can vanish into the woods in a burst of speed and be gone before the camera is raised. But not always.


One last glance back and the fox continued on his daily patrol of the woodlands.

Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks.

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