Do Foxes Hibernate? What Do They Do And How Do They Survive In Winter?

Arpitha Rajendra
Feb 29, 2024 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Nov 11, 2021
Fox standing on a rock looking for food
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.0 Min

The various coat colors of red foxes over the winter months are gray, silver, amber, and platinum.

Foxes are intelligent in nature and cunning too. They are also nocturnal in nature, which means they mostly avoid human detection.

Foxes come in small and medium sizes. Foxes belong to the same family as dogs. Their ears are triangular, and they stand upright on their heads. These omnivorous species have bushy tails and upturned snouts. There are almost 25 extinct that are often referred to as foxes by many researchers. Foxes are typically found in every region of the world except Antarctica. In the wild, foxes generally have a lifespan of between one to three years, but many individual foxes have lived up to ten years of age. Fox species do not always live in packs, like dogs or coyotes. Some are solitary, while others make small family groups. These omnivores' main diet consists of invertebrates, like insects and also vertebrates such as birds and reptiles. A foxes' diet also includes green vegetation and eggs. The state in which an animal's metabolism decreases and activities are minimized is known as hibernation. Many animals species hibernate to store energy during the winter. The body temperature, heart rate, and breathing of this animal decreases. However, foxes do not hibernate.

If you enjoy reading these facts about do foxes hibernate, then make sure to read some more interesting facts about are foxes nocturnal and do foxes bark here at Kidadl!

How do they look in winter?

Fox develops a dense and rich coat in the winter months.

The most common red fox occupies Asia, Europe, Australia, North America, and North Africa across suburban, rural, and urban areas. Arctic foxes, also called polar foxes, snow foxes, or white foxes, are found in the northern hemisphere in Arctic ranges. The cold habitats of these animals are mostly tundra, which means that they are treeless plains. The temperature drops to -50 F (-45.5 C). For several months of winter, and there is no light in nature. These animals do not get into groups to keep themselves warm. These winter foxes are also small, meaning more body surfaces of these mammals come into contact with the cold. Hypothermia can also cause death. They have much smaller amounts of fat in their body. These foxes' bodies start to transform from fall but not for them to hibernate. Their coats get thicker, covering not only their legs but also their paws. The coat transforms to a white color from its original blue-gray. They will accumulate almost 30% of their weight in fat. The Arctic fox's coat fur increases by 140% in layers, with more layers on their feet. This compensates for their small size and provides insulation to keep them warm. Their bushy tail acts as their face scarf and mattress.

Where do foxes live during the winter month?

Foxes live in dens and lay outside in the winter months.

Many mammals go into hibernation to conserve energy, as food resources become scarce and only come out after winter to feed. Foxes do not change their routine in winter and do not go into hibernation either. In typical cold weather, foxes might spend time lying in sunlit areas to keep warm. Only severe snowstorms or decreasing cold temperatures will drive them to look for shelter. Humans can easily see an adult fox roaming around in their area; however, young kits are usually kept away in burrows to protect them from prey and extreme winters. You will not see any changes in foxes' behavior. Foxes mostly forage or hunt until the mating season. These animals will not stay in dens or burrows. You can also find these animals sleeping on a blanket of snow. Their common activities in winter weather are breeding and raising young ones. Foxes start to mate in January, and this continues until the first week of March. Both female and male foxes hunt together and also protect their kits in dens until their sixth week after birth.

Foxes are opportunistic and feed on anything they come across. In winter, food resources are scarce, which is why they move closer to human habitats looking for prey or food in trash cans and garbage. They will even enter residential yards and lawns. They might even burrow under the ground.

Fox jump on the forest meadow with first snow

How do red foxes survive in winter?

Red foxes survive by growing long fur, thick tail fur, thick paw fur, body fat, and seasonal fur.

Red foxes grow long and thick coats, covering them all over, including on their paws, to keep warm in winter weather. These animals will use their fur to stay warm, curling up on the ground and not in any kind of den. As spring weather starts, the red fox's fur starts shedding. A red fox's body heat is conserved easily due to small body parts exposing less surface to winter winds. Change in these animals' fur color also helps them to camouflage better in the winter environment. Their tail fur is also thick enough to protect their body and to insulate heat. Their tail is also less active. The fur on the paws of a red fox will provide grip on slippery surfaces as well as insulate the animal from snow. Fat content present in the body also works like fur, providing insulation. This is necessary as it allows red foxes to conserve food storage, particularly during low food availability in winter. Like dogs, red foxes keep their paw temperature lower compared to their body. This prevents heat loss through other body parts that come into contact with the ground.

Winter Habits Of The Arctic Fox

The arctic fox puts on the required body fat to stay warm in cold temperatures and dig a den for young pups. This wild animal also shivers, licks its feet, and sleeps in the winter months.

There are many studies conducted on the vital signs and behavior of arctic foxes. One such study was conducted on a fox that was put in a temperature that was similar to arctic regions. The body temperature of this fox was not affected and was stable with the fox while going to sleep. With a little decrease in temperature, the fox licked its feet for 30 minutes, then slept for an hour and shivered. Further decrease in temperature made the fox shiver for about five minutes without its body temperature dropping.

The behavior of arctic foxes is nomadic and communal. They are known to travel a lot in search of a mate, food, and shelter. They can travel throughout winter. As these creatures do not need to hibernate, they can breed twice every year. After summer, these creatures eventually build up fat in their body by decreasing their movements. This fat increases the Arctic foxes' body weight, providing a source of energy due to food scarcity and insulation to fight the weather. Arctic foxes will steal goose eggs to store most of them. After caching, they will eat the eggs in winter.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestion for 'Do foxes hibernate?', then why not take a look at 'Do foxes make good pets' or 'Fox facts'?

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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