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A Bad Rap for the Red Fox
May 20, 2013
The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) gets a bad rap. People see the agile animal as a wily, cunning, bloodthirsty killer. That’s only partly true. Foxes are often guilty of killing more than they can eat, but not for the joy of killing. The frugal critters bury the extra food to eat later.
Red foxes prowl throughout the state, but are fond of East River’s mix of open farmland and shelterbelts. Few live in the south-central counties, but photographer Doug Jorgensen found these pups along Highway 18 west of Bonesteel. Foxes mate in January and February, and a litter of three to five pups is born between March and May. After surviving on milk for eight weeks, they get their first taste of meat, but not by hunting. Mom regurgitates a little for each pup.
Though they are born blind, foxes develop excellent senses of smell and sight, making them top-notch hunters. Hunting skills are instinctive, but their parents help sharpen them. For about two months, mom and dad bring live mice home so their pups can practice stalking and killing. By three months they can hunt on their own. They’re free to leave, although some stay close to home their entire lives. In the wild, that’s only one to four years.
Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the March/April 2009 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call 800-456-5117.