What Do Red Foxes Eat in the Forest?

August 26, 2021
2 mins read

Nearly all foxes are almost entirely opportunistic, omnivorous predators. However, most studies agree that it feeds mostly on small mammals, especially rodents (rats, mice, etc) and lagomorphs (rabbits and hares). All these animals make up around half of the red fox diet including urban and rural settings combined. 

What do red foxes eat in the wild?

Red foxes are quite diverse dietary omnivores. Small, rodent-like rodents including fowls, mice, ground squirrels, hamsters, gerbils, woodchucks and deer mice are also an essential part of the fox’s diet. Secondary species include birds, leporides, porcupines, raccoons, reptiles, possums, insects, crickets, caterpillars, crayfish, other invertebrates and floats. Foxes may prey on young ungulates but only sometimes. 

In general, they rely up to around 3.5 kilogrammes (7.7 lb) of mammalian weight, and need as much as 500 grams (18 oz) of food a day. Red foxes consume plant material easily and fruit can make up 100% of their diet in the fall. In other areas. Blueberries, berries, raspberries, cherries, persimmons, molluscs, apples, penguins, raisins and acorns are commonly consumed in this fruit. Other plants contain grass, seeds and tubers.

The most abundant of tiny animals are the bank voles (Myodes glareolus) and fields (or short-tailed voles), although mice and rats are often consumed too, particularly in urban settings. Red foxes also prey on wood mice, brown rats (Rattus norvegicus), and grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) but these are secondary diets. 

Rodents in the fox’s diet

Mice (Micromys minutus)

Hamsters (Cricetinae)

Gerbils (Gerbillinae)

Ground squirrels, pocket gophers (Geomyidae)

Deer mice (Peromyscus spp.)

Groundhogs (Marmota monax).

Red fox hunting nature and diet preference

Red foxes fancy hunting early in the morning before dawn and late in the evening. They generally drill alone, but can be aggregated in areas rich in resources. They locate the position of their prey by sound, then soar upwards, navigate with their tails in the middle of the air, before landing at a destination up to 5 m. (16 ft) away from it. In the late hours and at night they will eat the carrion. Shrews are regularly captured and stored, but seldom consumed, perhaps because they are unpleasant. They are also often eaten. Scent glands on the shrews’ flanken generate an oily section with a strong smelly ‘musty’ odour, which renders them unappealing to many predators, and which is utilised in the marking of scents and communication. Similarly, Moles (Talpa europaea) also produce a muscular odour discharge from scented glands on their stomach-again, this is definitely unpleasant to foxes like shrews and that is why even though foxes do manage to catch moles, they are not often ingested.

Their food is highly valuable and they will protect their captures against even dominant animals. Red foxes do not like moles but nevertheless catch them alive and serve them as plays for their young ones. 

While foxes are pretty fond of eating insects and worms they will attack hedgehogs if the food is scarce. 

What mammals do red foxes eat?

  • Otter
  • Stoat
  • Red deer
  • Roe deer
  • Weasel
  • Water deer
  • Reeves’ muntjac
  • Porcupine
  • Opossum
  • European badger
  • Water vole
  • Domestic cat
  • White boar

Invertebrates in the fox’s diet

  • Butterflies and moths.
  • Grasshoppers and crickets.
  • Beetles and earthworms.
  • Spiders, slugs, and snails.
  • Crane flies, and rat-tailed maggots.

Birds in the red fox diet

  1. Domestic fowls
  2. Gamebirds, thrushes, and poultry
  3. Pheasants and chickens
  4. Blackbirds, robins, starlings
  5. Wading birds and gulls

Plants and veggies in the diet

  • Fruits and berries
  • Blackberries
  • Crops, corns, and barley
  • blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
  • cherries, persimmons, mulberries, 
  • apples, plums, grapes, 
  • dates, figs and even acorns
  • grasses, sedges and tubers

Reptiles, frogs, small snakes, lizards, and bird’s eggs make up only a small portion of the fox’s diet. eggs  are usually taken by foxes – sometimes causing harm to gamebird nests – but they will also raid reptile eggs.

References and Further Reading

Red Fox: The Catlike Canine – by J. David Henry Smithsonian Institution Press — 1996 — ISBN: 978-1560986355

Urban Foxes – by Stephen Harris & Phil Baker Whittet Books — 2001 — ISBN: 978-1873580516

The Complete Fox – by Les Stocker Chatto and Windus, Ltd. — 1994 — ISBN: 978-0701137762

Wild Fox: A complete study of the Red fox – by Roger Burrows David and Charles Publishers — 1968 — ISBN: 978-0330238007

Britain’s Mammals: A Concise Guide – by People’s Trust for Endangered Species Whittet Books — 2010 — ISBN: 978-1873580813

I am a contributing author and co-founder of animalsanswers.com. Every now and then i find myself hooked to my laptop researching and trying to discover new species of animals.

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