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Red fox kits, Orange County. (Photo: Michael Mazzuca Photography, @photosbyzuc)

All About the Hudson Valley’s Red (and Elusive Gray) Fox

Spring is a prime time to spot foxes with their kits, but these mammals are active throughout the year.

by Lynn Freehill-Maye
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This past spring, spotting an elegant lone red fox in Scenic Hudson’s Mount Beacon Park — and seeing a mother nursing her kits along a hedgerow below the Hamilton Fish Newburgh-Beacon Bridge — reminded us why these animals have fascinated humans for so long.

Archaeologists recently opened a 16,500-year-old grave in Jordan to find the skeleton of a fox that had been buried with a human, suggesting a pet relationship that beat the earliest evidence of a dog as pet by 4,000 years. Yet as 2013’s least-escapable kids’ song “What Does the Fox Say?” proves (and sorry for bringing it back into your head!), our collective fascination with foxes has never let up.

Foxes are members of the Canidae family, making wolves and dogs their canine relatives. Foxes have some commonalities to dogs (like a great sense of smell) and others to cats (extra-sensitive whiskers, tree-climbing abilities). Surprisingly, they’re sleek enough to weigh less than the average house cat. Yet they’ve got a special status all their own.

Red fox kit, New Paltz. (Photo: Donald Krom Photography)

“Foxes touch human emotions,” ecologist Adele Brand, author of The Hidden World of the Fox, has said. “Of all our wild mammals, they are the easiest to get to know as recognizable individuals, and observing the ups and downs of their lives builds strong empathy.”

Here are some of the coolest pieces of scientific knowledge about foxes:

Foxes are found on every continent except Antartica (although they were introduced by humans to Australia). They’re hugely adaptable, able to live in forests, prairies, deserts, even tundras. Both red and gray foxes are found in the Hudson Valley, although gray are less prevalent (and a red fox can actually turn up with different colorations, including gray).

Red fox kits, Orange County. (Photo: Michael Mazzuca Photography, @photosbyzuc)

In March and April, many have just bred. They deliver one of their annual litters of as few as two or as many as 10 baby foxes, which are called kits. Kits are born blind and deaf, and they stay with their parents for around their first seven months of life.

Foxes hunt and sleep alone. They’re considered solitary creatures. Raising small families is one of the few things these animals do together. If you do see multiple foxes together, you can pull out a fun term: a group of them is called a skulk or leash.

A female fox is called a vixen. She’s fertile only three days per year. The name for a male fox is a little less exotic: he’s called a dog. He does stick around and help, bringing food to the den, and a vixen often regurgitates it to her offspring. Foxes are considered excellent animal parents.

Fox family, New Paltz. (Photo: Donald Krom Photography)

Their hearing is unimaginably sharp. A red fox can reportedly hear a watch ticking up to 40 yards away — or, maybe more pertinently, a rodent digging deep underground.

Gray foxes are good climbers, while red foxes are speedy runners. Gray foxes have semi-retractable claws and can rotate their forearms, allowing them to climb trees. Red foxes can run short distances at speeds up to 45 mph, outrunning dogs, coyotes, and wolves.

They’re threatened by habitat loss, but vital to ecosystems. Foxes help control populations of their prey animals, like rodents and pigeons (some species of which are common vectors of Lyme disease). They also may disperse seeds by eating fruit. In researching her book, Brand has said her most stunning find was that seeds from at least one plant, Mediterranean hackberry, germinate earlier and are much more likely to survive if they pass through the intestinal tract of a fox and are excreted in its droppings.

Gray fox, Staatsburgh. (Photo: Christian Hietanen)
Lynn Freehill-Maye is managing editor of Scenic Hudson’s HV Viewfinder. She is also a Hudson Valley-based sustainability writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Scientific American, Sierra, Civil Eats, CityLab, Modern Farmer and beyond.
Featured image of fox kits by Michael Mazzuca Photography, @photosbyzuc.

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Hudson Valley Viewfinder is a collaborative, community digital magazine sharing what inspires us about the beautiful Hudson Valley. We publish original stories and multimedia content about all things sustainable in the region along the Hudson River — including agriculture, science, wildlife, outdoor recreation, green transportation, environmental justice, and more.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

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We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

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  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

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