The fox is a versatile predator with an adaptable range that extends from Eurasia to South America. It thrives in human-centric landscapes like the steppe and desert, as well as in more remote forests, mountains, and tundra. The primary reason for its success is its diet — the fox will eat almost anything, from rodents and rabbits to geese and berries.

The red fox is the most common species of fox, but other types include American (arctic), African (Bengal), and South African(Neyland).

There are also several regional variations that can be found across Asia – including Arctics; Rain Forest Scientific whose name comes from where it was first discovered on an expedition to Australia’s top mainland territory: Antarctica 

One interesting fact about these furry creatures? They have been known as “reds” since 1892 when naturalist Captain Thomas rupture collector assigned them this moniker at his preserve in England while studying their habits

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyCanidae
Sub-familyCaninae

Foxes Species and their Diets

Foxes are omnivores, but still, the basis of their nutrition is made up of vertebrates. The fox hunts for small rodents, hares, birds, reptiles, and beetles.

The fox does not often hunt large mammals, but the larger fox does not miss the opportunity to feast on small hares or roe deer cubs. It also loves bird eggs and their inhabitants, capercaillie, geese, and partridges.

The fox is a versatile feeder that will eat anything from plants and berries to fruits. In places where salmon are found, they also consume them as well! When there’s not enough food around, you might find them taking advantage of higher quality fleshy prey such as carrion or dead animals.

Depending on the species of foxes, their diet and hunting methods may differ. Here we have listed some common fox species and fox diets.

1. Red fox

A red fox in a snowy region
A red fox in a snowy region
Scientific NameVulpes vulpes
PhylumChordata
DietOmnivore
HabitatSteppes, tundra, forest belt, desert, and human settlement
Lifespan2-4 years
SizeLength: 60-90 cm without tail, Weight: 2-10 kg

The red fox is the most prominent representative of its kind; its weight varies from 2 to 10 kg. The length of the body (without a fluffy tail) is from 60 to 90 cm. 

The smallest fox is the fennec fox, which is 30-40 cm long and weighs no more than 2 kg. The fox, as a predator, prefers to live in the steppes, tundra, forest belt, and desert. It has also been living around villages or the outskirts of human dwellings. 

What do Red Foxes Eat?

Their diet is very varied, depending on their habitat and season. The fox’s primary food source is small vertebrates, no larger than a wild rabbit, which can make up more than half of their menu or even more in some areas.

These foxes hunt small rodents like voles, mice, squirrels, hamsters, gerbils, and marmots. It avoids eating shrews whose sebaceous glands produce a repulsive odor. 

It can also eat birds and waterfowl. In addition, it can also consume hares and porcupines, raccoons, skunks, frogs, and reptiles. 

Occasionally, it eats insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and other invertebrates such as earthworms collected after rain and is a significant protein source. 

It also happens to appreciate beached marine animals. Red foxes don’t seem to like the taste of moles, but they can occasionally catch them and introduce them to their young to play and learn hunting. 

The fox is also a scavenger, not disdaining a carcass it finds along the way. It also feeds on mammalian placentas.

Red foxes sometimes eat plants, wild grasses, seeds, mushrooms, and fruit; in some areas, they may even supplement their diet with these foods. 

Among the fruits they eat are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, persimmons, apples, plums, and grapes. They also occasionally eat grass and tubers.

In the city, it does not despise household waste. In rare cases, the fox may attack humans for food, but only as a last resort in the case of extreme hunger. The red fox is an opportunistic animal and adapts its diet to the season and food availability. 

Thus, it eats rodents in the spring, cherries between June and July, locusts and beetles when they abound in the summer, eats mushrooms in the autumn, and is usually content with carrion, respecting a seasonal cycle. 

2. Swift Fox

four swift foxes at garden
Swift Foxes
Scientific NameVulpes velox
PhylumChordata
DietOmnivore
HabitatShort grass prairies and deserts
Lifespan3-6 years
SizeLength: 80 cm Weight: 2-3 kg

The Swift Fox lives in the west and center of North America. They were once found all over Canada but now only survive near certain areas like Alberta, where they’re doing well due to protected hunting laws.

These foxes are nocturnal, like all desert dwellers. They wait for the day’s heat in underground burrows. They are not territorial and do not defend borders; their areas often overlap. These animals are very secretive, and little is known about the lifestyle of these creatures.

The American fox is one of the few animals that have adapted to living in landscapes with little cover and resources. They can live through harsh conditions such as fires, droughts, or severe storms by escaping from their habitat when it becomes too dangerous for them, which makes this animal very special!

The coloration of the fox allows it to merge with the vegetation of short grass and mixed-grass prairies. Swift foxes can meet most of their water needs from prey and a small amount of plant material. 

Swift foxes can run at speeds up to 60 km/h, allowing them to hunt fast prey such as hares and helping them escape predators like coyotes.

What do Swift Foxes Eat?

The Swift fox’s small body size allows survival on smaller prey such as insects and small mammals, which tend to be plentiful and easier to catch.

Its diet consists of rodents, rabbits, birds, and reptiles. In summer, the basis of food is insects (beetles, locusts); in winter – carrion is left by other predators.

3. Island Fox

Catalina Island Fox running towards the freedom after being vaccinated against rabies and temper
Island fox running towards freedom after vaccination
Scientific NameUrocyon littoralis
PhylumChordata
DietOmnivore
HabitatChannel Islands
Lifespan3-6 years
SizeLength: 58-68 cmWeight: 1.3-2.8 kg
Conservation StatusNear Threatened

This fox is found on the six largest Channel Islands, about 30 to 98 kilometers off the southern coast of California. 

The island fox is tiny than the gray fox and slightly smaller than a cat in terms of size. The nose-tail length reaches 58 to 68 cm, with the tail reaching almost 29 cm. 

The male fox is larger than the female, and the weight of this species of fox is between 1.3 and 2.8 kg. It is a type of fox that molts at least once a year, more or less between August and November. 

The typical habitat of these foxes is, in general, a complex vegetation cover, having a high density of perennial shrubs. This animal lives in all woodland habitats of the islands where they are found, including temperate forests, temperate grasslands, and chaparral. 

What do Island Foxes Eat?

The island fox feeds on various foods such as fruits, insects, birds, eggs, crabs, lizards, and even small mammals such as rodents belonging to the genus Peromyscus. 

Some (but rare) have also been seen picking through people’s garbage. They are known to forage for food on beaches along the coast.

4. Tibetan fox

The perfect image named 'the moment' by Bao yongqing who won 2019 wildlife photographer of the year capturing a Tibetan Fox versus marmot
A perfect camera capture of Tibetan fox vs. marmot
Scientific NameVulpes ferrilata
PhylumChordata
DietCarnivore
HabitatSemi-arid and arid grasslands
Lifespan5-11 years
SizeLength: 70 cm Weight: 5 kg
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

The Tibetan fox inhabits the highest plateau globally, Tibet, and is found at an altitude of more than 5 thousand meters. 

The Tibetan fox is widespread in the steppes and semi-deserts of the Tibetan plateau and also lives in Nepal north of the Himalayas, in North-West India, in several provinces of China bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region.

It is the smallest representative of the entire fox family. An adult grows only up to 70 cm, or even less. At the same time, its tail has a length of up to 45 cm, and the animal weighs no more than 5 kilograms. 

The fox has a luxurious, warm fur coat to protect itself from the winds. The fur coat is made of thick wool, and there is also an underfur closer to the skin. 

What do Tibetan foxes eat?

The basis of the diet of Tibetan foxes is pikas. They also eat rodents, woolly hares, marmots, rabbits, lizards, and small land birds. The foxes would also scavenge the carcasses of different animals. 

However, they have also been seen consuming fruit when food is scarce. The fox even eats carrion left by wolves and bears.

Just like its close relative (the arctic fox) follows polar bears, Tibetan sand foxes are known to follow brown bears. However, they don’t usually wait their turn after carrion, which is the last resort. Instead, they attack the pikas that flee the bears, who dig them up from their burrows.

This relationship straddles the border between kleptoparasitism and mutualism. The bear doesn’t gain anything from it but doesn’t lose because it knows it wouldn’t catch the pikas running away anyway.

5. Arctic Fox

Arctic fox with bird carcass at right
Arctic fox along with bird carcass
Scientific NameVulpes Lagopus
PhylumChordata
DietOmnivore
HabitatArctic regions and alpine tundra
Lifespan3-6 years
SizeLength: 50-70 cm Weight: up to 10 kg
Conservation StatusLeast Concern

The Arctic fox is one of the mammals best adapted to the harsh cold of the extreme northern regions of the globe. 

Facing temperatures that can reach minus 70°C, they are one of the most classic inhabitants of the Arctic – in Arctic regions and tundra areas -along with the Polar Bears. 

The fox size is similar to the red fox – the body length is 50-75 cm, the tail length is 20-30 cm, and the weight is 4-6 kg, although some foxes have grown fat during the winter and weigh up to 10 kg. 

Arctic foxes differ from ordinary foxes in shorter ears covered with wool, and short paws, the pads of which are also covered with wool.

The hearing of foxes is fragile; they also have a well-developed sense of smell, but the vision of these polar animals is somewhat worse developed, but they also see pretty well.

What do Arctic Foxes Eat?

It prefers small mammals, but it also eats insects, fruit, carrion, and all sorts of food leftovers by humans. 

Their winter diet generally includes invertebrates, seabirds, fish, and seals. Populations that live further inland have a diet rich in lemmings. 

When more food is available during the summer, the Arctic Fox often stores food in its hiding place for later use. Its stomach is excellent: it digests any prey. In addition, it can withstand long periods of fasting.

Often Arctic foxes also hunt white geese, geese, and tundra partridges, destroy the nests of snowy owls and catch fish.

Seasonal Diet of Foxes

The diet of all fox species varies seasonally as per requirement, availability, and accessibility.

What do foxes eat in winter?

Winter is a hard time of the year for the animal. As the ground is covered with a thick blanket of snow, getting something out of the snow is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. 

The most attractive meals for local foxes are rodents at this time. More often, the family of voles. 

Hunting foxes for rodents resembles hunting cats. The fox applies the surprise effect, having tracked down the victim, and attacks it without a chance. 

It can hear their squeak at a distance of up to 30 meters. It hears the same black grouse jumping from branch to branch, up to a kilometer away from it. So it is not difficult for the fox to find a cluster of mice under the snow.

More foxes migrate to the bushes along the rivers, where they can feast on hares or ptarmigan. In the desert zone of Central Asia, foxes gather in winter, mainly in tugai, along the banks of rivers and lakes. In some areas of the steppes, small rodents, which are the leading food of foxes, hibernate. 

In herb meadows along river banks, reed beds, and tugai meadows, rodents do not hibernate in winter. The bird fauna is also more abundant there, which causes the movement of foxes from neighboring desert regions in winter. 

Such seasonal movements of foxes are also noted in their mountainous areas. Such movement has a vertical character and is caused mainly by the snow cover regime and the seasonal distribution of food.

Usually, animals spend summer in the highlands, and with the onset of winter, they descend into secluded valleys, where snow is not so deep, and food is more accessible. 

The typical phenomenon for high latitudes is from where the foxes, with the onset of winter, move closer to residential areas and serve as living stations for the fox during periods of lack of food.

It is not against looking into the chicken coop near residential buildings. Here is such a rich diet for the fox, even in winter.

The predator loves to eat hares in the forest belts; it destroys the entire hare family if it finds a hare hole. Having met a roe deer, it will not pass by either. 

a red fox with an egg in his mouth
A red fox with an egg in his mouth

What do foxes eat in Spring and Summer?

At this time of the year, the predator feeds quite densely since, at this time, it has its cubs. The fox cubs are born at the end of March; they feed on mother’s milk for a month and a half. 

Usually, 5-6 foxes are born. They are already starting to play and climb out of their holes by the end of April. Mom and dad, at this moment, are already starting to pamper their children with living food. 

While feeding cubs, foxes can also hunt larger birds like swans. Rodents are brought to fox cubs to develop their passion for hunting.

In addition to its primary food, the fox can eat wild berries and fruits. As a rule, foxes in the southern regions resort to this.

The diet of the animal in the desert varies. Here fox predation can lead to eating reptiles, beetles, larvae, and earthworms. Often it catches dead fish from reservoirs.

In the taiga, foxes have a tough time since there is not much food in this place. The principal of the diet is made up of small rodents and birds.

What do foxes eat in autumn?

In the autumn, the foxes will eat a lot of nuts to prepare for winter. Humans’ fruits and crops are suitable prey, so they often nest closer to human settlements than in the mountains. They like to eat legumes and corns.

What to feed foxes at home?

Pet dog diet plan includes caterpillars, Grain-free dog food, bite sized vegetables, berries, mealworms and crickets
A diet plan for pet foxes

People like to keep pet foxes at home as domesticated dogs. Still, the owner should create the necessary conditions for everyday life for the animal, including paying attention to the predator’s nutrition.

It is better to feed high-quality dog food; for a change, you should pamper the predator with berries and fruits. Since exotic pet foxes are also a predator, they can eat chicken giblets and cartilage.

Feeding your fox a balanced diet at home could be challenging. Consider using grain-free dog food as a supplement with other foods that you use to feed your pet fox.

Including raw fish and bones in the pet fox’s diets is forbidden. Baby foxes are usually fed milk or dairy products. 

When getting such an animal at home, one should be wary of its behavior, as foxes eat cats. If the fox gets away and turns into an urban fox, it can attack and eat dogs on the street or adversely affect dogs eating fox.

What do foxes eat in cities?

All foxes near human dwellings might not be fortunate enough to have pet food. Since stray foxes are deprived of a natural diet, they search for various food items.

The food source for stray foxes comes from food scraps, human food, leftover food, badger food, and other thrown food on city streets.

The favorite food for rogue city foxes is pet animals like guinea pigs, rodents, small cats, and even puppies.

Since these wild animals are known for carrying infectious diseases, even a small wound can cause infection in their potential prey.

It would be best to call for an Animal control agency and take them back to their natural habitat where they can have a nutritious meal.

In general, foxes are not, without reason, reputed to be very cunning animals. Predators often devise unusual ways to obtain a wide variety of food or adapt to the existing conditions. 

The nutrition of a fox in natural conditions often depends on the fox’s habitat. However, small mammals always form the basis of the diet. 

(Last Updated on August 25, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Sadrish Dawadi is a Mountain Ecologist, an expert on the impact of climate change on humans, animals, and plant species. As an activist for animal welfare, he believes an animal's eyes can speak a great language of the planet's state and environmental condition.