Are you wondering how do foxes survive the winter weather? Do foxes hibernate? What are some of the adaptations that foxes have been able to develop in order to survive long winters?
We look at it as these relatives to our canine companions and wonder whether or not we should take care of them over the winter. Should we feed a fox who is trying to survive the winter?
In this article, we will find out how foxes survive the winter weather.
How Do Foxes Survive the Winter Weather?
Foxes do not hibernate over the winter. Instead, they grow thicker fur over their paws, tails and bodies. Their fur helps them become insulated from harsh winter weather.
It also helps them grip slippery surfaces that are icy. The extra insulation keeps the cold away from their paws and helps insulate their heat. The adaptations of a fox over the winter are as follows:
- Long coats
- Low surface area to volume ratio
- Thick fur on the tail
- Thick fur on the paws
- Body fat
- Countercurrent heat exchange mechanism
- Sheltering in Burrows
- Decreased activity
What Do Foxes Do to Survive Winter?
Foxes are able to develop a thicker winter coats over the cold months. They are able to shed it in the warmer seasons.
Over the winter, foxes devote time to hunting and foraging to bring food to their den and relax until mating season begins the following spring.
Foxes can sleep comfortably out in the open on top of fresh snow because their fur has grown to a thicker length and density in order to remain warm regardless of colder winter conditions. They do not hibernate over this time but will decrease their activity.
Can a Fox Survive in Cold Weather?
Yes. Foxes are incredibly capable of surviving weather that plunges all the way underneath -58 degrees Fahrenheit. They can do this with their extra fur on their paws and bushy tails.
They have more defenses against the cold including decreasing their activity and increasing their body fat. Their low surface-to-volume ratio allows them to remain warmth as they stay closer to the ground.
Foxes also have a countercurrent heat exchange mechanism that allows them to minimize heat loss from their paws when making contact with the snow and ice.
How Do Fox Keep Warm?
Foxes are able to keep warm with their thicker winter coats. They can keep their body temperature as warm as 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Foxes can survive weather conditions all the way down to -58 degrees Fahrenheit.
They grow extra hair on their paws and their tails become fluffier. This gives them a counter-current heat exchange mechanism to minimize heat loss through their limbs and tails.
Foxes can wrap their warm tail around their body and sleep on top of the snow without freezing to death. Due to these adaptations, they do not even need to hibernate over the winter.
Where Do Foxes Sleep in the Winter?
A fox can wrap itself up with its warm bushy tail over the snow or ice in fall asleep comfortably out in the open. They also burrow deeper into dens and reduce their activity over the winter.
The dens are either underground or through tunnels that they have built like igloos. The fox stays insulated from the extreme cold with these dens also with the adaptation of growing extra fur around their paws body and tail.
Foxes are able to sleep in conditions that are as cold as -58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Should I Feed Foxes in Winter?
If you feel sorry for a fox in the winter that is near your property, you can decide to offer some food like meat. Offer just enough for the animal to continue moving around and forage naturally.
If you offer too much food, the fox’s winter survival patterns will be disrupted and they will depend solely on you instead. Foxes realize that winters are harsh and difficult to find insects and worms in the ground.
They are still able to find rabbits and other rodents while storing just enough food necessary in their dens. Foxes do not need to eat as much food over the winter because they reduce their activity even though they are not hibernating.
Do Foxes Store Food for Winter?
Yes. Foxes can store a minimal amount of food for the winter in their dens. These dens are small burrows that they can dig underneath the ground or create a tunnel that resemble igloos.
The den is not just a location for a fox to store food. This is where they can spend most of their time in the winter hiding from predators and waiting for mating season to begin the following spring.
They can use their dens for the following reasons:
- hide from predators
- protect their young
- wait out winter until mating season begins
- have a safe place to sleep
- store food
A fox will reduce its activity and will not require as much food over the winter. They can still hunt for rodents and rabbits along the way.
Do Foxes Hibernate?
No. Foxes do not need to hibernate over the winter. They have adapted to help their body survive the winter by growing thicker fur coats. They can also grow more fur over their tails and paws.
This allows them to have a low surface to ground ratio and insulation that results in lower heat loss. The counter-current heat exchange mechanism in foxes keep them warm over the winter since their paws are kept at a lower temperature than the rest of their body.
Foxes can rest comfortably in their dens or out in the open while remaining warm and toasty under their thick fur. They can continue to hunt and forage over the winter as well without the need to hibernate.
How do Red Foxes Survive in Winter?
Red foxes can survive the winter with several adaptations that include the following:
- Thicker fur
- Low surface area to volume ratio
- Thick fur on paws
- Body fat
- Countercurrent heat exchange mechanism
Red foxes are able to grow longer coats to cover up their foot pads and bushy tails to keep them warm when they curl up to sleep. Adult red foxes do not need dens to stay warm. Their tails will keep them blanketed in the snow.
Low surface area to volume ratio
Since red foxes have smaller body parts compared to many other fox species, it means that have less body surface exposed to the atmosphere. A red fox’s smaller body parts keeps heat conserved underneath their paws for over the winter season.
Thick fur on paws
The hair that grows thicker on a red fox’s paws keeps it insulated from the snow. It also protects them from slippery and icy surfaces when they are walking throughout the day.
Red foxes can store more body fat in the winter time by reducing their activity and conserving their food storage. Since their food supplies are limited over the winter, they reduce their activity and spend more time resting.
Countercurrent heat exchange mechanism
This is a mechanism for exchanging heat in the paws of a fox. Much like dogs, they can keep a lower temperature in their paws compared to the rest of their body.
This heat exchange mechanism helps minimize heat loss when they are making contact with the ground. The blood is flowing back from their pads to the body without being cooled off through their limbs touching the ice or snow.
How do Foxes Survive in the Cold?
Foxes can survive the cold and continue their normal routines. They enjoy playing in the snow and staying active because of the following adaptations:
- Thicker Coat
- Change in Diet
- Countercurrent Heat Exchange Mechanism
- Social Behavior
- Foxes Grow A Thick Winter Coat Instead of Hibernating in a Den
The longer coats that foxes can grow helps to cover their foot pads and their bushy tails act like blankets when they curl up to sleep.
The counter-current exchange mechanism prevents heat loss through their paws when touching cold surfaces. Foxes will reduce their social behavior and spend more time waiting in their dens until mating season begins once again.
Do Foxes Store Food for the Winter?
Yes. Some foxes are able to steal goose eggs or create caches of food storage when they consume scraps or bring back leftovers of rodent and rabbit carcasses that they have found over the winter.
They are not desperate to store food because they can continue hunting and foraging as their bodies remain warm enough to do so.
What Do Foxes Do in the Winter?
Foxes are fazed as much by the winter compared to many other animals. This is because they can grow a thicker winter coat and continue on hunting or foraging.
They do not need to rely on their den to hibernate. They will reduce their activity and dens can be used to protect their young while also storing a minimal amount of food.
It is common to see foxes foraging and hunting over the winter just like any other season. The main difference is that they are waiting for mating season to begin the following spring and will reduce their activity until the time comes.
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