Foxes – one of our most numerous neighbors
SUMMIT COUNTY – Silverthorne resident Bill Linfield first photographed a fox in November 2007, and the critters have held his attention in all seasons ever since.
It’s easy to see why: Linfield’s camera lens has captured images of rambunctious, downy kits, patient nursing mamas and serene ginger-colored beauties soaking up the late-afternoon sun. As wildlife species in Summit County go, foxes are some of the easiest to spot, and some of the most endearing.
“I’ve developed a special affection for foxes,” Linfield said. “They’re such a playful animal – the kits in particular. You can see them wrestling, playing, biting each other’s tail.”
Foxes are members of the canid family, which also includes wolves, coyotes and domestic dogs. Colorado is home to four species of fox, but the red fox is the only one that makes its home in Summit County. Much like the black bear, the red fox comes in a variety of colors, despite its name. The majority are blonde or reddish-orange, with black feet and ears. Locally, gray and black foxes are often sighted also, but they can be identified as members of the red fox species by the white tips on their tails, according to Randy Hampton of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Breeding pairs maintain a number of dens, but a pair will select a primary “natal” den in late winter. Female foxes give birth to a single litter of kits each spring, after a gestation period of seven to eight weeks. Litters average about four kits. Foxes are active all year round, feeding primarily on rodents and birds, foraging at dawn and dusk. But they will also eat food made available by humans.
“In their natural environments in the wild, they are very skittish animals,” Hampton said. “If you see foxes near you, it’s likely they’ve been fed at some time.”
As people feed foxes, the animals grow more comfortable around humans, increasing the odds for unpleasant encounters, including bites. And the more time foxes spend around neighborhoods, the greater their chances of being hit by a vehicle.
“People aren’t doing foxes any favors when they feed them,” Hampton said.
Linfield keeps a respectful distance when he’s watching or photographing foxes in Silverthorne and elsewhere in the county.
“They’re so fun to watch. I’ve sat and observed a den for an hour-and-a-half, seeing the kits play. But I’m very careful not to interfere or disturb them,” he said.
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