Red fox is Idaho’s crafty canid

They sometimes seem tame, but don’t be fooled, and definitely don’t feed them.

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANDecember 5, 2013 

Red foxes are common in Southwest and Central Idaho, slightly smaller than a coyote and although named “red,” their coats can be different colors.

PETE ZIMOWSKY — Idaho Statesman file

The Red Fox is the most common fox in Idaho and can be found in many parts of the state, but is more frequently seen in the south than the north.

They were historically less common and less widely distributed than they are now. They were once believed to be restricted to the mountains of Central and East Idaho, but they seem to be doing fine in Idaho outside those areas.

Foxes are commonly seen in the Foothills, and dens can be seen burrowed into hillsides.

Foxes prey on small mammals and birds, and they eat eggs and the young of ground-nesting birds, such as waterfowl, shorebirds and grouse.

Female foxes generally produce four to eight young per year, often giving birth in the spring in burrows that are often abandoned homes of badgers or marmots.

Foxes generally pair with the same mates year after year. Their color phases can be remarkably attractive, ranging from red and gray to nearly jet black. However, their white-tipped tail is always present regardless of color.

In the past, foxes were heavily hunted and trapped for their luxurious fur. They can still be harvested in most of Idaho by trapping or hunting with the appropriate licenses, but people should always check Idaho Department of Fish and Game rules to determine seasons and other regulations applicable to harvesting them.

Foxes that live near towns, campgrounds, homes and other places can become quite accustomed to humans and act almost tame. But don’t be fooled or confused, they’re still wild animals. Treating them like a pet or giving them a handout could have some serious consequences.

Fish and Game regional wildlife manager Jeff Rolhman says feeding foxes can lead to “food conditioning,” which makes a wild animal bolder around humans and pets and brings trouble for all involved.

Often, Fish and Game is called in to destroy the animal. His advice is simple, no matter how cute they are: Let nature take its course and allow the animals to fend for their own food.

Bill Bosworth, wildlife biologist for Fish and Game’s southwest region, also reminds people that the rare and protected kit fox has been documented in the southern Idaho.

Kit fox is a different species, which is a little confusing because that’s also the name of a young fox regardless of the species.

Kit foxes are a desert species most common to the Southwest U.S. and Mexico. They have been spotted in Idaho in lower-elevation shrub and grassland habitat.

Like the red fox, the kit is mostly nocturnal. They are distinguished by their small size, black-tipped tail and large ears. They can be confused with young coyotes, which they resemble. Hunters need to be sure of the target since this species is a protected nongame species.

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