What Animals Do Red Foxes Prey On, and How Do They Hunt?

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Foxes are omnivores who use excellent hearing and sharp night vision for hunting many animals, including small mammals, fish, insects, birds, and livestock. These small canines come out at nighttime and use their excellent vision to hunt anything they can find anywhere they can find it. 

In most cases, foxes know their limitations, so they will not prey on larger predators, other foxes, and big game. This article discusses the relationship between foxes and their ability to hunt these types of animals. It also discusses their relationship with domestic animals who wander in their territory.

Since the fox is not at the top of the food chain, they must always remain aware while hunting and eating their prey. Luckily the fox has created strategies to avoid predators like the mountain lion and the wolf from preying on it. 

Red Foxes and Their Prey: What Does a Red Fox Prey On?

Red foxes are omnivores who prey on many small mammals, such as mice, squirrels, and rabbits. These are the most common part of the red fox’s diet. They also prey on birds, reptiles, fish, and insects. They have an expansive diet and will eat nearly anything they can find.

As an opportunistic eater, the fox would rather exert minimal effort. The animal or insect the red fox preys on must be readily available to them as is, there must be no stalking or chasing, and it must be easy to catch. That is why most of the fox’s prey is smaller, slow, and terrestrial.

Foxes Might Go After Your Pets

Foxes do not typically prey on cats and dogs. Most of the time, dogs are larger than foxes. Therefore they will not prey on dogs. However, they may accidentally eat cats if they mistake them for their regular prey because of their size and appearances, similar to other prey. 

Foxes Prey On Rodents and Small Animals

Some of the main parts of the foxes’ diets are rodents and other small animals. These mammals are easy to catch and readily available for the red fox. Although one small rodent will not fill up the red fox, the red fox can typically prey on these animals and catch numerous in one day.

In addition to many more, small animals and rodents that the fox preys upon include: 

  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels
  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Groundhogs
  • Beavers
  • Chipmunks
  • Hedgehogs
  • Praire Dogs
  • Voles

Mammals have protein, which fuels the fox to hunt. Since they are small, it is easy for the fox to eat them in one sitting, and they can easily hunt many of them in one night. Unfortunately, the smell of mammals will attract predators and other foxes. 

Foxes Prey On Reptiles

Foxes will often prey on reptiles such as snakes and lizards. The main reason these animals are so great is that they are so easy to catch. Most reptiles are terrestrial, making it convenient for the fox to trap and eat. 

Reptiles like snakes move slowly compared to the fox. So do lizards, which the fox may easily sneak up on while sunbathing if they need a daytime bite to eat. The fox can depend on easy and quick snacks for protein and nutrients.

Foxes Hunt For Poultry and Birds

Poultry and birds are another convenient part of the fox’s diet. They will hunt birds of all sizes, including chickens, ducks, sparrows, and many more. Birds are a large and readily available species, which fits the fox’s criteria for an easy hunt.

The fox eats poultry such as chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, quail, pheasants. In addition to hunting these birds, the fox is also known for sneakily hunting these farm birds’ eggs and stealing them at night. In many cases, the intelligent fox will steal and cache eggs for several days before feasting on the mother hen. 

The red fox is also a fan of ordinary birds like cardinals, doves, or sparrows. These birds are frequently seen around urban and wildlife areas, making them easy to spot and readily available for the red fox.

Foxes cannot hunt large birds, like hawks, eagles, or owls. In fact, these birds are predators of the fox. The talons of some of these birds of prey are much sharper than the fox’s, and they can lift a fox away.  

Foxes Hunt Mustelids

Foxes will prey on mustelids, despite their ability to defend themselves. The black-footed ferret is one of the most common mustelids that the red fox makes its prey. This ferret is typically aggressive toward other animals. However, the fierce fox is great at combatting the ferret and often wins the engagements. 

They also hunt the mink and otter when readily available -although otters are not always as easy to hunt. Any type of mustelid that easily presents itself to the fox will be preyed on.

Foxes Hunt Small Marsupials 

The fox is a predator to many small marsupials like numbats, crest-tailed marsupial mice, and sugar gliders. The appropriate size marsupials that the fox may eat are similar to small rodents, like the mouse.

In the US, the fox will happily prey on the opossum too – which is often an easy meal.

Foxes are intelligent canids who know which prey they can and cannot eat. 

Foxes Sometimes Hunt For Fish (When Possible)

When foxes can catch fish, they will eat them. The main reason foxes do not seek out fish is that they do not enjoy swimming. This terrestrial animal prefers hunting small mammals and reptiles because they are more accessible. They are opportunistic hunters, and it is easier to hunt what is immediately in front of them. 

Fish are a good source of nutrients and protein. The fox will depend on fish to boost nutrients when they need to. 

Foxes Rarely Hunt Medium-Size Wildlife

Foxes do not typically hunt medium-size wildlife since they are in the same part of the food chain (Or simply too big!). However, when a fox is desperate enough, they may resort to eating an animal in the same food category as themselves, such as a baby raccoon. Raccoons are generally the same size as the fox and have a mutual agreement not to fight. 

Foxes may eat other medium-size animals like skunks and opossums. They do not always eat medium-size animals but may do so when given a good opportunity.

Foxes Forage and Eat Insects

Foxes love to eat insects like grasshoppers, snails, and earthworms.

Insects are a good source of nutrients for the fox, found in nearly every environment. Many insects are seasonal. However, the red fox can find underground insects like grubs or the earthworm year-round by digging.

This fox prefers playing with the beetle it found rather than eating it. For now.

Foxes Eat Amphibians

Foxes will eat frogs and toads, a great supplement for proteins and meat. These delicious water-dwelling amphibians are relatively easy to catch for the fox, who will relax near the riverside. Although they are terrestrial animals, they rely on water as a source of hydration and a cooling mechanism in warm weather.

Do Foxes Eat Their Young?

If the female fox (the vixen) experiences infanticide, she will kill her young. Infanticide is something where the mother fox after killing their young, foxes sometimes eat their young. 

There is no single conclusion for why mother foxes perform this type of behavior. However, scientists believe they could be doing it for food, remove competition, or prevent alloparental behavior.

Foxes Hunt Livestock and Farm Animals

Farm animals and livestock have difficulty defending themselves, so foxes often hunt farm animals. Foxes may (although rarely) hunt livestock like baby goats and sheep. These small farm animals are locked in cages and easily accessible for the fox. 

Foxes who live near farms will capitalize on farm animals like goats and sheep, who are defenseless. They may also work in large groups to hunt larger livestock like young calves or horses.

Foxes primarily target small and newborn livestock, but they may also go for larger targets depending on their size and confidence.

Animals Foxes Stay Away From: Which Animals Do Foxes Avoid Hunting?

Foxes are medium-sized omnivores who must avoid many animals to survive successfully in the wild. One of these important survival tactics is avoiding animals that are larger than them. Hierarchy is important in the canine community, and as a member of that community, the canine evaluates every situation by comparing themselves to their opponents.

If they cannot win, they will not initiate an attack.

For the fox, staying away from some animals like larger canines and wild game is better than risking their life.

They will also stay away from poisonous and dangerous animals that they recognize as life-threatening. For instance, the red fox will not attack capybaras or rattlesnakes because these species are dangerous to the red fox despite their small size.

Foxes Avoid Large Wild Game

Even when they are newborns, wild game is already larger than foxes. Foxes will typically stay away from these animals unless they are in large groups. Then, foxes are more likely to hunt them and win. 

Wild game includes animals like wild boar, moose, and deer. These animals are not easy for the fox to take down alone and can easily cause damage to the fox if they try to approach them alone. Therefore, they will typically avoid them when alone unless they are weak for some reason.

Foxes Avoid Large Marsupials

Foxes typically avoid large marsupials because these animals are surprisingly dangerous. Although they appear sweet and innocent, marsupials like the wombat or the koala are highly aggressive. If the red fox were to fight against one of these animals, it would surely result in a devastating fatality.

Red Foxes and Their Predators: What Animals Prey On Foxes? 

Many animals hunt foxes, which makes them highly vulnerable animals. They are relatively small mammals at the lower portion of the food chain. Larger predators and hungry animals may prey on foxes easily, and since they are small, they have difficulty defending themselves.

Large Felines and Canines Prey on Foxes

Foxes are at the bottom of the canine food chain, which means larger dogs like the wolf and coyote will often prey on this small mammal. They are also victims of large felines, like mountain lions. The fox is a staple in the diet of these large animals.

Foxes Infrequently May Prey on Foxes

Cannibalism will only happen if foxes are desperate for food, but this does not frequently happen since foxes choose territory based on sustainability. However, an environment that lacks food may result in cannibalistic behavior.

Foxes may also turn to cannibalism if an unfamiliar fox walks onto group territory. If a lone fox crosses a territory owned by a leash of foxes, the lone fox might be attacked and consumed. The initial intention would not be for food. However, the foxes would likely be unable to waste a meal if it was in front of them.

How Do Foxes Hunt?

Foxes have different hunting habits similar to other wild canines like the coyote. They are mostly nocturnal animals, so they begin hunting around dusk and proceed through the night. However, the sophisticated canine can hunt at any time of the day because of their excellent, cat-like vision. 

Because of their size, they may hunt quickly and in fear. Or, foxes may choose to hunt in groups for added comfort. The animals are more vulnerable when they hunt at night.

Foxes Use Their Hearing For Locating Small Rodents Under Snow

While arctic foxes are well known for this behavior, many people don’t know that red foxes also use their hearing for locating small prey under snow, or even underground.

They stealthily zone in on the animal’s location by using their refined hearing and jump at it in one swift leap.

Often this results in catching prey such as mice, rats, gophers, or other animals hiding out under the snow.

Foxes Hunt and Eat Quickly

Foxes hunt incredibly quickly. Red foxes do not like wasting time when they hunt. They will take down their prey as quickly as possible so they can eat their prey. Although they cannot sit and savor the taste of their meal, they still enjoy their catch. 

Foxes Cache Their Unfinished Meals

When a fox cannot eat its meal quickly enough, it caches it in a hole and returns later.

Caching means the fox digs a hole in the ground to bury their prey. These holes protect their food from predators. The dirt masks the smell and prevents them from attracting the odor. 

Later, potentially the next day, the fox will return to eat more. First, they will observe the surroundings and ensure no predators are watching.

Foxes Hunt Through The Nighttime

Because of the fox’s unique vision, they can hunt at any time of the day. Still, the most common time of day for the fox to hunt is nighttime. Their intense night vision helps the fox see clearly in the darkness, an attribute that helps them hunt better than all their prey and many of their predators.

Foxes Are Opportunistic

Foxes are opportunistic hunters who do not typically engage in stalking their prey. They prefer eating the food they find. For instance, a fox may be interested in hunting a small mammal that they hear nearby or something that walks in front of them. They like a minimal approach to hunting which they do not need to put much effort toward.

Foxes may also scavenge or forage for food like insects or underground worms. A fox may also want to scavenge in an urban garden. They may also turn to garbage or roadkill before wasting time tracking an animal by scent. 

Foxes Are Mostly Lone Hunters

Foxes are solitary animals who like to hunt alone. Hunting alone helps the fox travel more stealthily, find prey, and hunt their prey easier. The lone fox does not depend on another fox for assistance. Furthermore, not all foxes live in leashes of foxes (groups). In other words, they do not have another fox to hunt with anyways. 

Foxes Sometimes Hunt In Groups 

In rare cases, foxes may hunt in groups. Hunting in groups typically happens when foxes want to hunt larger prey like deer or livestock. They may also hunt in groups when outnumbered, such as hunting livestock or herds of deer. 

Foxes Hunt Against Coyotes

It is common for foxes to compete over territory with coyotes. Coyotes are a direct competitor with foxes because of their similar diets and favorable habitats. Therefore, the two canine species will fight to gain ownership of the land and its food.

Since the coyote is typically larger than the fox, they can only overpower the coyote when they are weak. Weakness only happens when the coyote is the runt of the litter, still maturing, or ill. Otherwise, coyotes are usually larger and will win fights against foxes.

How Do Foxes Eat Their Prey?

Foxes have relatively interesting eating habits, which vary based on preference. Generally, foxes assume an eating style and maintain it throughout their lifetime. Anything they learn is either something they observed or something the young kit learned from their mother.

Foxes Swallow Their Prey Whole

Some foxes will swallow small mammals and reptiles whole, such as mice or lizards. You can see evidence of this diet by looking at the fur and bones in its scat

Foxes Eat Off The Bone

Some foxes are very careful eaters. They will eat everything inside an animal they have hunted aside from the bones. They will eat everything from their prey, including the meat, muscle, organs, and anything else they can take from the body without eating bones.

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