Red Fox Mating and Reproduction (Your Questions Answered)

Foxes find mates using vocalizations and scent markings. After finding a partner, they form a monogamous relationship to reproduce with the same partner each winter. When red foxes mate successfully, they engage in a copulatory lock that keeps them embraced for up to one hour. In springtime, kits are born, and the adult foxes work together to raise them.

This article discusses the red fox mating process, including how foxes breed and the kit rearing process. 

How Do Red Foxes Mate?

Foxes mate each season by coupling up into monogamous pairs, which last for life. Red foxes reproduce relatively quickly, despite mating only once per year. The gestation period of the red fox is between forty-five and fifty days. By the beginning of spring, the litter of kits will be born.

When a male fox and a vixen successfully mate, it results in a copulatory lock. In the middle of the night, you may hear screaming, and squeals which are clear signs of mating red foxes mating.

Foxes Make Noises

While mating, foxes make many noises, including screaming, squeals, and more. A common noise made by red foxes during the mating process includes squeals of excitement before the mating occurs. Foxes also chitter, yip, laugh, and howl before, during, and after mating. 

Female vixens will scream most often once they have begun mating. Screams and squeals will become more intense and vocal when foxes become tied. People living near the outdoors may recognize these sounds during mating season in the middle of the night during January. 

Red Foxes Are Monogamous

Vixens are monogamous and committed companions. After mating together, they raise their baby foxes and function as a family unit. If a female fox dies before the male, the male does not seek another partner.

If two male foxes compete for a single female, the foxes may become physical. Spats between multiple males lead to loud quarrels with screams and yips.

Foxes can identify their partner’s voice and other foxes by the sounds of their vocalizations. If the red fox has migrated to another territory throughout the year, they can use this recognition to draw themselves back. Red foxes recognizing the calls of their partners is helpful when living in packs on large territories. 

Red Foxes Enter Copultory Lock With Their Mate

When mating, the male fox mounts the vixen. As the foxes mate, they experience a copulatory tie, where a male fox and vixen get stuck together with their rear-ends stuck together. A copulatory tie can last for up to an hour or more. Cupoltory ties result from male and female foxes linking their reproductive organs together in consensual reproduction.

Red Foxes mating. An example of the copulatory lock between two red foxes.

Cupoltory locking only occurs when the male has successfully impregnated the female. Vixens typically make loud, human-like screams and will typically yelp the entire time. The tie is considered less painful than it is stressful and alarming.

Red Foxes Travel to New Territory

Before the foxes may have their baby foxes, they must dig dens. However, they will not do this on their current territory. Red foxes typically travel far from their current territory before digging dens and having kits. Safety is a key part of the mating and reproduction process. 

The new territory can be miles away from their previous territory. The intention is to eventually return to their previous territory without their kits. First, they will have their kits on unfamiliar turf. Here, they will establish a ground territory for the young kits to learn the grounds of the surrounding area.

How Do Red Foxes Find A Mate?

Red foxes find mates by using mating calls and scent marking. As adults, red foxes establish monogamous relationships with partners with who they repeat the reproduction process with each mating season. 

Red Foxes Use Mating Calls

Their screaming mating calls are one of the most important parts of the mating process. Male foxes and vixens use mating calls to attract companions. These calls sound like screams. 

Red Foxes Use Scent Marking

In addition to vocalizations, red foxes also use scent markings to attract other foxes. These scent marking are made by females along her territory line. If a male wanders, the smell of a vixen’s urine is supposed to draw him in. At this time, the smell of her urine is full of estrogen, which is a common indicator that she is fertile and ready to mate.

When Is Red Fox Mating Season? 

The fox’s mating season typically happens once per year in January. Since male foxes and vixens go into heat between December and February, the time foxes mate may vary.

Once foxes go into heat, they can only mate for the remaining two-week mating period. In these two weeks, the male and female foxes produce sperm and activate their estrous cycle.

How Are Baby Red Foxes Born?

Baby foxes are live-born from the mother at the beginning of spring after a forty-five-day gestation period. Vixens birth between two and twelve kits in underground dens, where she protects them from large predators.

Kits Are Live Born

The red fox is a mammal, which means the vixen live-births her kits. In the gestation period, the baby foxes grow in her stomach, and then she delivers between two and twelve kits. Unfortunately, only three to five of these kits will survive by the end of winter.

Kits Are Born In Dens

Kits are born in underground dens to protect the small babies from predators and harsh elements. A large reason red fox kits require a den at birth is that they do not have the dense layer of outer fur required to keep themselves warm, dry, and protected from the sun. A den keeps them warm and protected from the elements, which can be dangerous.

Male foxes and vixens move their fox kits to several dens during the rearing process. The act of moving dens keeps kits safe from predators, who might be capable of tracking red foxes to their dens. Mating season is the only time of year that foxes use dens.

Additionally, a den protects young kits from predators who challenge the red fox for its territory. Instead of combatting their challenge, the vixen and male submit. They move the kits to a new territory, slowly moving closer to their old land.

How Are Red Fox Kits Raised?

Vixens deliver their young inside underground dens. The female fox will dig the den before birthing their kits in spring. Female and male foxes actively raise the kits together by providing them food, teaching them basic rules of being a fox.

Both parents are adamant about being a large part of nourishing and raising the kits. Unfortunately, not all of the baby foxes will survive despite their best efforts.

A fox mom nursing her young.

Kits Raised by Both Parents

Mothers tend closely to their kits for the first four weeks of their lives since they are completely helpless. Kits rely on the vixen for guidance because they cannot see, and their hearing is limited. Male foxes bring food to dens to nourish kits as they grow.

During the rearing stage of reproduction, males are actively involved with raising the kits. They will bring regurgitated food to feed the kits and will actively stay in dens with kits when the vixen requires nourishment.

At night, the male will occasionally sleep with the vixen and kits. However, he typically remains on the outside of the den a few yards away so he may keep guard for approaching predators. Both parents are on high alert at night. Similar to their daily naps, they open their eyes every few seconds to register nearby predators.

Self-Exploration

After the third or fourth week, the kits develop their senses and begin exploring the dens. They learn how to see, hear, and smell. Eventually, they start venturing out of the den. Mothers supervise their red fox kits and help them as they travel around.

Adults Teach Kits Independence

Foxes leave their mothers when they are around twelve months old. At a year old, foxes are considered adults. Some foxes leave their mothers at twelve months, whereas others stick around until sixteen to eighteen months after closely observing adult foxes.

By ten months, females are ready to mate. However, they typically wait until after their first year to mate to ensure they are fully self-sufficient. Female foxes may stay with the pack to act as a nurse and help with raising new kit litters before reproducing themselves. 

Do Red Foxes Interbreed With Other Animals (Coyotes, Dogs, Cats, or Wolves)?

Foxes cannot interbreed with other canines. They share only a limited amount of the same DNA as coyotes, dogs, cats, or wolves. The only type of interbreeding that foxes do is interspecies breeding.

Two fox breeds can mate to make hybrid fox species. For instance, a gray fox and a red fox can breed together. The species will have altered DNA; therefore, the appearance and behaviors will differ. There will be numerous defects to the hybrid fox species, such as an inability to reproduce.