Updated: Sep 23, 2020
You think that you would be more likely to find a fox out in the country, but there are fox families found in every major city in Australia, including Melbourne and our very own Glenferrie.
The red fox was introduced to Australia in the 1850s, brought to Werribee by the Chirnside family for hunting. They are very adaptable animals and have now migrated to over two thirds of the country. Foxes love urban areas such as Hawthorn where they can burrow their dens under houses and in thick vegetation along the Yarra and have access to a constant supply of food - especially on bin night.
Foxes are territorial animals. Each fox territory spans over six hectares and will generally contain one male and one female fox (vixen) who can tolerate each other outside of breeding season. In Melbourne, there are around 3-16 foxes per square kilometre.
While foxes prefer to come out at night, they are not exclusively nocturnal, and you are likely to see them out during the day more often this time of year.
Though the fox spends most of the year a solitary hunter, foxes come together for their breeding season from July to October. A vixen will have 4-10 pups who are weaned after 4-5 weeks.
When she is nursing her pups, a vixen hunts for food more often to bolster her diet, increasing her food intake by about a third. Foxes are a very social family pack animal and are very playful with their pups, much like dogs. But as their social calendar revolves around the breeding season, the pups will disperse from their parents after October, and the fox becomes a ‘lone wolf’ once again. The pups can roam up to 30km to find a vacant spot in an established territory.
The fox’s favourite foods include mice, rats, insects, fruit, and food waste where they can get it. Foxes have been known to hop into people's backyards and dine on pet rabbits and chickens. As an introduced species, they have no natural predators and instead prey on a lot of native species, which has caused extinction of many ground-dwelling animals since the fox first moved to Australia.
Foxes are very wiley and wary of humans, but we have been seeing them out and about in Glenferrie more and more often this breeding season. With most of the humans indoors at the moment, the night belongs to the fox.
Thank you to Brett Lane, Managing Director of Nature Advisory at 61-63 Camberwell Road, Hawthorn East for his red fox insights.