Identification of Foxes


Fox in shelter (IACRC Daryl Panther)

Fox in shelter (IACRC Daryl Panther)

Identifying a fox

Foxes are a striking animal, with coat colour ranging from pale red to deep reddish brown or even grey on occasion. The underbelly of foxes is a contrasting white colour. Legs are slender and lower parts, particularly the feet, are usually black. The characteristic bushy tail of a fox is dark reddish brown to black, and tipped with white or black hairs. Foxes have large ears and long black whiskers around the face, which is pointed.

Adults measure around a metre in length, including the tail, and weigh between 4.5 and 8.3 kg. Male foxes are usually larger than females. Very young cubs closely resemble kittens and have a short, dark grey fur and a rounded face.

By the time they are 12 weeks old, the coat has changed from dark grey through chocolate to the typical reddish coat of the adults, and their rounded faces develop the pointed nose typical of the adult.


Prints

Fox footprints can be quite different to devil, quoll and cat prints but are quite similar to prints of small to medium dogs. One useful way to distinguish fox prints from dogs is the position of the toes.

Note on the image left how the tops of the outer toes of a fox would not extend beyond a line drawn along the bottom of the inner toes, whereas on the dog's paw, the tops of the outer toes are higher than the bottom of the inner toes.

Fox Print

Scats

Fox scats (poo) are difficult to distinguish from other carnivore scats and may be confused with scats from cats, large quolls, juvenile Tasmanian devils and small dogs. Fox scats are usually about the size of an adult human's finger, roughly cylindrical with a sharply pointed (as distinct from tapered) end. Foxes, cats and quolls will often deposit scats on top of tussocks, whereas dogs and devils rarely do.

Foxes will often bury their kills
Image: Daniel Schembri, courtesy IA CRC
Fox with rabbit (IACRC untagged Daniel Schembri)
The contents of scats reflect what was eaten as much as the animal produced them. Devil scats usually contain relatively large chunks of bone and are often dropped at communal latrines (devil toilet sites). Blackberries are a favourite food of foxes and, in season, may be very visible in fox scats.

Fox scats also have a distinct, pungent odour since they are often used to mark food sites and territories. Typically, foxes drop a scat at a feeding or cache site (and even on top of carcasses).


Eyeshine

Foxes are famous for their extremely bright eyeshine. It may vary in colour but in mature foxes is often golden yellow; in juveniles it is paler yellow but still intense. Separation of the eyes is also quite obvious, even at a distance (see photo).

Foxes are more inclined to face a strong light if it is not centred on them and are generally very wary animals. The use of fox whistles can aid in bringing in foxes and getting them to face a light.


Fox calls

Foxes make a range of calls and are particularly vocal in the breeding season as they search for a mate. Some examples of common fox calls are below.


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calling for a mate
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territorial sounds
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summoning yell
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warning sound
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squabbling
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wawa sound
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wowo noise
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cubs playing


Animals kills

Animals killed by foxes typically have numerous small puncture wounds around the neck and head. Facial bites and puncturing of the neck are also common. Birds such as poultry may only have the head and neck eaten, and large feathers chewed off, rather than plucked out.

Larger prey, such as lambs, may have just their face, tail and ears eaten. Foxes are also known to eat the tongue and lips of calves while they are being born. Other species such as dogs, cats, devils, quolls, ravens and birds of prey may scavenge on a fox kill, inflicting different types of damage and confusing the evidence.\

Fact sheets:

Identifying Foxes - June 2012 (265 KB)


Related pages:


Contact

Invasive Species Enquiries
Invasive Species Branch
165 Westbury Road
PROSPECT TAS 7250
Phone: 03 6777 2200
Fax: 03 6336 5453
Email: invasivespecies@dpipwe.tas.gov.au