Red foxes are common throughout Illinois and our office receives numerous calls regarding this species. They are harmless and most calls come in during late spring and early summer when customers realize they have a family of foxes living on their property. The young are often observed playing outside the den entrance. Because the young are often weaned and on solid food by the time they are observed, they usually leave the denning site within a short period.
They are beautiful animals with long ears and a long pointed muzzle. Color can vary but most red foxes have a light-orange coat, black legs, black behind the ears and a white tipped tail. Foxes are considerably smaller than coyotes and weigh between 7 and 16 pounds.
Breeding takes place in red foxes December through March and they enter "heat" only once in this period. Gestation is approximately 52 days and the kits are born March through May. Average litter size is 4 to nine. Den sites may be dug or in many cases abandoned woodchuck burrows may be used. In suburban areas mother red foxes often choose decks, front stoops and back yard sheds as denning sites. Often red foxes will move their young to other dens if they are available nearby.
Red foxes prefer intermixed cropland, brush, mixed hardwood stands and pastures. Red foxes are well adapted to living with humans and may be found living in cemeteries, parks, golf courses and livestock barns.
Damage occurs primarily through livestock destruction (poultry). In urban and suburban areas, complaints about nuisance foxes include nuisance digging, offensive smells and the carcasses of prey animals (mice, squirrels and rabbits) left outside the denning area. Red foxes may eat cats and small dogs but prefer to hunt small mammals.
Trapping is the recommended management tool for control of this species.