Red Foxes in the Winter
The weather is getting colder and winter is on its way. The red fox is one of the two species of fox that Iowa has. How do they survive the cold Iowa winters?
Red foxes do not hibernate, but they are less active during the winter to conserve their energy. They will usually just curl up right out in the open and wrap themselves up in their big, bushy tail to keep warm. On really cold days, you may see the red fox spending some time lying in the sunlight to warm up. Red foxes develop a thick winter coat that covers them up to their footpads to keep them warm. Their winter coat is longer and thicker than their summer coat.
The red fox also has a countercurrent heat exchange mechanism that is also found in dogs. The paws are maintained at a temperature that is lower than the body. This minimizes heat loss via the paw that is in contact with the cold ground. In severe cold, they will dig burrows into the snow to escape the cold temperatures.
Since they do not hibernate, they will usually mate and raise their offspring during the winter months. They will breed from January into the first few weeks of March. To keep their pups safe, they will dig tunnels into the snow to them from predators and to help keep them warm. The male and female fox will stay together to hunt for food and care for their pups until they are about six weeks old.
A red fox’s diet mainly consists of ground squirrels and mice. Although this prey can be more difficult to find in the wintertime, they will find whatever food there is by using their hearing. They have ears that are pointed outward. This allows them to have super-sharp hearing! A red fox can hear a mouse squeaking from as far away as the length of a football field!
Red foxes are very resourceful when it comes to coping with the cold weather conditions. They are amazing hunters and have great ways to survive the long, cold winter months!