In North America, five species of foxes exist, with ranges and habitats, in some instances, overlapping. Belonging to the Canidae family, foxes possess varied diets and often cover large distances in the areas in which they live in search of food. Some of these species are very successful, having lost little ground with the encroachment of civilisation, while others have felt the effects of human presence in their habitat more keenly.
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The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has the largest range of any North American fox, living throughout most of the continent with the exception of far northern Canada and Alaska as well as many of the far western states in the U.S. The red fox lives in different habitats, including cultivated farmlands, mixed woodlands, deep forests and open prairies. The red fox is one of the few animals to expand its range, according to the "National Audubon Society Filed Guide to Mammals."
The semi-arid to arid areas of the American West and Mexico are the haunts of the kit fox (Vulpes macrotis). Kit foxes live where there are grasslands, desert scrub and chaparral, with their dependence upon certain species of prey a reason for their decline. For example, those living in Mexico that eats mostly prairie dogs feature dwindling numbers as prairie dog towns fall victim to agriculture. Kit foxes adapt to living in urban areas, with some able to inhabit orchards and farmlands.
Named for its speed, the swift fox (Vulpes velox) only inhabits about 40 per cent of its original range throughout the Great Plains, notes Defenders of Wildlife. Swift foxes live on rolling short grass prairies, making use of the dens of others small mammals or digging out their own. The swift fox range includes southern Alberta and prairie states such as Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana.
The habitats of the grey and red fox overlap in the east, but the grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is absent from most of Canada and all of Alaska. The grey fox does live along the West Coast, in the Great Plains and the Southwest, with its range extending into northern South America. Favored habitats of the grey fox include places where brush is plentiful to provide cover as the animal hunts. Gray foxes inhabit wooded areas and often make their dens on forested slopes among boulders.
An arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) moves from out on the ice floes in the cold of winter throughout its range to inland where the tundra meets the edge of the forest in the summer. The arctic fox has a range across northern North America, from western Canada eastward to northern Quebec, with the fox also present on Greenland. The arctic fox makes a den in a snow bank in winter, but digs one in the side of a hill or bank in summer.
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- New Hampshire Public Television Nature Works: Red Fox
- Defenders of Wildlife: Swift Fox
- Canid Specialist Group: Kit Fox
- New Hampshire Public Television Nature Works: Gray Fox
- New Hampshire Public Television Nature Works: Arctic Fox
- "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mammals"; John O. Whitaker Jr.; Revised 2008