Foxes are wily, swift, and can be quite dangerous to small animals. These are well-adapted predators that can be found across the globe in almost every region. They haven’t been so successful by accident. Not only are they cunning and agile predators, but foxes are also opportunistic. These are creatures that will eat just about anything they come across.
Despite being rather small in size, these creatures can do quite a lot of damage. They’ve been known to break into backyards and make their way into pet enclosures. In the wild, they eat rabbits as one of their main sources of food, particularly at certain times of the year. They’ll also make their way into the hutch of your pet rabbit if they see an opportunity. Of course, they’re not singling out rabbits. No small pets are safe if a fox is around, and your garden might be in trouble as well!
Fox Foods by Season
Being such successful predators, it’s easy to mistakenly believe that foxes are carnivores, similar to their wolf cousins. But in actuality, a fox’s diet is closer to a coyote’s, another member of the Canidae family. Foxes are omnivores and will eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and plants. Still, foxes tearing up gardens doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem as when they attack pets or livestock.
Foxes have been known to kill various backyard pets. Small dogs and even cats often become fox prey. Larger animals, such as big dog breeds, are not at much risk, as the largest foxes top out around 30 pounds. But rabbits are easy prey for a fox since rabbits are essentially defenseless. Wild rabbits have speed at their disposal, so if they’re quick and lucky, a wild rabbit might escape a hunting fox. The rabbit in your backyard is protected by its enclosure, but given enough time, a fox could make it past those defenses and have an open pass to attack your pet.
Different times of the year present changing feeding opportunities for a fox. In the colder winter months, foxes are in full predator mode. Their main sources of food during this time are small animals, including rabbits, rodents, birds, and anything else they manage to kill.
In autumn, foxes will feed on more plants, including berries, apples, acorns, tubers, and whatever else they can find. When it gets hot in the summer, you’ll find foxes eating small prey; mostly insects such as crickets, caterpillars, and beetles, though they’ll also eat small animals like rodents and frogs. Springtime means eating earthworms, bird eggs, and a bit of aquatic hunting for fish and crabs in the shallows.
How Foxes Hunt
Though you’ll often see foxes during the day, especially in urban areas, they’re actually nocturnal creatures that prefer to do their hunting at night. These predators hunt by stalking their prey. Using their incredible sense of hearing, they can listen for animals that are burrowing underground or under the snow. Then, they can dig down to their prey or pounce on it when it breaches the surface.
Large prey is hunted a bit differently. For bigger animals, including rabbits, foxes will usually quietly stalk the animal until they’re very close. When the rabbit turns to run, the fox will attack from behind. They’ve also been known to patiently wait near rabbit dens for their quarry to emerge when they can pounce and make the kill.
Urban and Rural Foxes
Foxes eat differently depending on where they’re located. Urban foxes eat food sources that are attracted by humans, including many rodents like mice and rats. They’ll also feed on roadkill left behind by accidents. Pigeons will also make up a good portion of an urban fox’s diet, as well as food left out by residents and anything they can scavenge from a garden or trash can.
In the wild, foxes have to work a bit harder to find most of their food. They’ll generally eat whatever they can find, including wild plants, small mammals, birds, and even reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and fish. Foxes have nearly as diverse a diet as humans!
Foxes don’t discriminate much when it comes to their food sources. If it’s edible, a fox will eat it. As omnivores, just about everything is edible to a fox, so backyard pets, gardens, and even garbage bins are all at risk if there’s a fox nearby. Rabbits especially make a tasty treat for a fox as they have no natural defenses and provide quite a lot of food for a single kill. So, if you’re concerned about your backyard rabbits’ safety, then you might want to ensure that your enclosure is 100% fox-proof.
Featured Image Credit: jmrockeman, Pixabay
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.