There are around 23 species of foxes, although only 12 of them are classified as “true” foxes. They are members of the dog (Canidae) family and are generally identified through their bushy tails and pointed ears and snout. Red is the most common fur color, but they can range from white to grey to black.
Foxes are agile mammals and are excellent hunters and scavengers. As such, they are regarded as cunning creatures. This article provides an overview of the different fox species and their diets.
What is a Herbivore, Carnivore, and Omnivore?
A herbivore is an organism that feeds entirely on plant-based matter such as fruits, vegetables, grasses, shrubs, roots, and fungi.
A carnivore is an organism that feeds entirely on other animals. This could be any part of an animal from flesh to muscle to fat.
An omnivore is an organism that feeds on a combination of both plant and animal matter. The word omnivore means to eat “all or everything”.
Foxes Are Omnivores
Almost all species of foxes are omnivores. However, some species rely much more heavily on meat than others, whilst some can survive purely on a plant-based diet.
The Tibetan fox is the exception as they have a carnivorous diet rather than an omnivorous one, feeding on small mammals and carrion. The secure fox consumes predominantly fruits and seeds and is capable of becoming entirely herbivorous when necessary.
What Type of Meat Do Foxes Eat?
For the majority of fox species, meat makes up the majority of their diet and is their preferred food source, with plant matter acting as supplementary feed. There is a huge variety of meat sources that foxes consume including:
- Small mammals
- Reptiles including snakes
- Cooked and tinned meat – dog food
- Garbage – food scraps including meat
Types of Vegetation or Fruit Foxes Eat
There is an abundance of plant-based foods that foxes consume, although the majority of the time these are eaten to supplement their mainly carnivorous diet or are acquired when animal prey is scarce. Some sources include:
- Pet food
- Garbage – food scraps including fruits and vegetables
Food That Foxes Avoid
Although foxes are omnivores and will consume virtually anything they can find, there are a few food items foxes will avoid, and some even repel the cunning mammals! Chili peppers. capsaicin and garlic are natural fox repellents. They detest the smell of these food items and are known to actively avoid them.
If you want to deter foxes from your garden, you can infuse boiling water with these ingredients and spray it around your garden. They have a very acute sense of smell and this method has proved to be an efficient repellent.
Wild foxes do not eat grains directly. They obtain carbohydrates from consuming animal prey that has previously eaten grains or other sources of carbohydrates.
Grapes and raisins are known to cause hypercalcemia, vomiting, and kidney problems in dogs and foxes alike, so they avoid these foods.
Pepper, tomatoes, green eggplant, and green potatoes contain toxins known as glycoalkaloids. These toxins are harmful to foxes and should avoid being fed to any domestic individuals.
Only an issue in domestic or urban environments, coffee should not be consumed by foxes. Around 150mg of caffeine is enough to be lethal to a fox.
What Do Cubs Feed On?
For the initial four weeks preceding birth, fox cubs are suckled by their mother. Up until the cubs are seven weeks old, although it may occasionally continue until they are 14 weeks old, fox cubs are weened.
At around 4 weeks old, once the cubs have finished suckling and moved onto weening, they may venture out of their den. They can begin learning to hunt insects and other invertebrates such as worms and slugs, although these prey items only constitute a small portion of their diet.
Whilst the cubs are weening, both the parents will provide food. Parents will bring back kills or other food sources to the den, where the cubs will rush over and feed on the food provided, often fighting one another for access.
Once the cubs have been fully weaned off their mother, they leave the dens and their parents. Initially, cubs are wary and go for easier kills like insects. They have to compete with adult foxes for food but will eventually become efficient hunters like their parents and feast on the array of food sources available to them.
How Often Do Foxes Need to Feed?
Foxes are agile hunters with an acute sense of smell and hearing. Most of the time, foxes will consume food sources whenever they encounter any and as long as they (or their cubs) are hungry.
Foxes will also bury surplus food, to protect it from being taken and enable them to recover it when required. Hence, foxes hunt and feed whenever they can.
Generally, these canids will consume anything between 500g and 1kg of food each day. However, this can fluctuate slightly depending on what food they are consuming. Highly nutritious, fatty, and energy-rich meals may allow them to get by on less, whereas scrappy meals may require more.
Fox Diet by Geography and Habitat
The diet of each fox species will vary slightly depending on their geographical location and habitat type.
- Red Fox – distributed across the Northern hemisphere and inhabit anywhere from mountains to cities to forests, and eat rodents, fruit, and garbage.
- Fennec Foxes – inhabit desert regions across North Africa and consume insects, rodents, and plants.
- Marble Fox – an artificially bred species that are most common across the Northern hemisphere, residing in deserts, tundra, and towns. They feed on vegetables, cooked food, and processed meats.
- Gray Fox – widespread throughout North and Central America they inhabit rocky regions, scrub, and woodland. They feed on small mammals, fruits, and agricultural crops.
- Silver Fox – they are found across the Northern hemisphere and Australia in forest regions. Rodents, carrion, grains, and garbage make up their diet.
- Arctic Fox – frequent arctic regions across the Northern hemisphere and consume any live or dead animal as well as berries and eggs.
- Kit Fox – found across Southwest America and Mexico and resides across arid habitats, feasting on small mammals and fruits.
- Swift Fox – inhabit open grasslands along the Western edge of the great plains. They eat rodents, fish, grasses, and fruits.
- Pale Fox – lives in the arid Sahel region of Africa and consumes small animals, vegetable matter, and eggs.
- Blanford’s Fox – is found in the mountainous regions across Central Asia and the Middle East. They feast on insects and fruit.
- Cape Fox – is widespread across the Sub-Saharan African dessert and feeds on insects, small mammals, and wild fruit.
- Corsac Fox – frequent arid regions across central Asia and consume rodents, birds, and plant material.
- Tibetan Fox – lives in the high-altitude grasslands of China and India and feasts on pika, woolly hares, marmots, and carcasses.
- Ruppell’s Fox – resides in desert regions of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East and eats insects, lizards, and grasses.
- Bengal Fox – endemic to the Indian subcontinent and frequents semi-arid and scrubland habitats. They consume insects, fruits, and small animals.
- Culpa Fox – widespread across South America and lives anywhere from mountains to forests to deserts. They feed on rodents, lizards, carrion, and plant matter.
- Darwin’s Fox – is endemic to Chile and resides in both the forest and coastal range. They consume mammals, reptiles, and fruits.
- Pampas Foxes – live in open habitats of South America and consume small vertebrates, carrion, and fruits.
- Cross Fox – found across North America inhabiting forests, mountains, cities, deserts, and farms. They consume birds, invertebrates, rodents, carrions, garbage, and plant matter.
- Sichuan Fox – endemic to South America and live in the desert, forest, and beach habitats. They feed on seeds, fruits, insects, and carrion.
- Hoary Fox – endemic to Brazil and resides in tropical savannas. They consume termites, dung beetles, small birds, and fruits.
- Island Fox – endemic to six of the Channel Islands of South California and frequent coastal scrub and grassy habitats. They feast on rodents, arthropods, and fruits.
- Bat-eared Fox – range across Africa in open, grassy plains and savannas, feeding on locusts, termites, dung beetles, small animals, and plant matter.
Verdict: What Do Foxes Eat?
Despite common misconceptions, foxes are omnivores, not carnivores. Across the many different species of fox, the general diet is similar. Small mammals and rodents tend to be the main food source for many species, alongside vegetation, carrion, insects, and even garbage, where they come across human food sources.
There is not much that these cunning canids will not consume, and once they have finished the suckling stage, cubs will follow their instinct and begin practicing their hunting techniques.