Literature Review: North American Red Foxes

by Carl Strang

There has been some confusion about the origin of North America’s red foxes. Are they truly indigenous, or are they, as some have claimed, all descendants of European foxes transported here for the fox hunting sport? Today’s literature focus is on a study that investigated that very question.

This red fox in western Alaska apparently had just crossed a muddy tidal slough.

This red fox in western Alaska apparently had just crossed a muddy tidal slough.

Statham, Mark J., et al. 2012. The origin of recently established red fox populations in the United States: translocations or natural range expansions? J. Mammal. 93:52-65.

They looked at mitochondrial DNA of red foxes, and found no indications of Eurasian influences, though they concluded that some populations were established by translocation within this continent. Prior to European arrival, the foxes were in Canada, Alaska, and west of the Great Plains. Agricultural clearing allowed their spread into the eastern U.S. This emphasizes how forested the East was prior to the large-scale changes brought about by European agricultural practices. South of Canada we would have seen gray foxes, but not red ones in those days.

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