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The fox is a group of 27 discreet species that are distantly related to wolves, coyotes and dogs — all from the canid family or Family Canidae. The fox, however, is not a dog, and cannot breed with a dog. Though these animals are quite attractive, they are not considered to be good pets.
One of the differences between foxes and other canid species is foxes have a strong odor comparable to a skunk. For the fox, the odor is an excellent defense mechanism against larger predators like bears, and large cats. This defense mechanism comes in handy due to the fact that the animal is rather small, few weighing more than about 15 pounds (6.8 kg). The skunky smell also discourages humans from coming too close to their dens.
Unlike other dog-like animals, the fox is solitary. Wolves, hyenas and wild dogs frequently hunt in packs, but this animal establishes its own habitat apart from others of its race. Females, called vixens, permit males to enter their territory and stay during the mating, birth, and early raising of their children, called kits. Sometimes a pair will remain monogamous and live together, but can also be found to live alone.
The fox is often considered catlike in its behavior. Its diet differs from that of large cats, as it tends to be omnivorous. Foxes enjoy meat as their primary food — usually in the form of rodents. They also will eat fruit and/or nuts when available. Animals can often be found right in the middle of urban areas, like in Central Park.
Although some live in close proximity to humans, the fox tends to avoid humans, and is usually not considered a danger to house pets like cats or dogs. It very rarely might kill an unwatched tiny puppy or kitten, but is unlikely to attack a full-grown cat or dog. Further, it will likely avoid children.
The primary danger of the fox in urban areas is its ability to contract and spread rabies. In fact, if one seems unafraid of approaching humans, it should be avoided and animal control should be notified. This uncharacteristic behavior may signify illness.
There are species on virtually every continent. Though the red fox was thought of as a European introduction to the Americas, later archaeological findings suggest the animal simply moved inland, into uninhabited forests. The grey fox is also native to the Americas. Other species include the Bengal fox of India, the Blanford’s fox in the Middle East, the Cape fox of Africa, the Fennec of the Sahara Desert, and the Swift fox of the Americas.
Some foxes are of slightly different genera and are not considered true foxes. These include the grey fox, which is noted for its ability to climb trees, and the alopex or arctic fox. Some have been imported to non-native areas where they have had a significantly negative effect on the new environment. The introduction of the red fox to Australia, for example, has been reported to be the cause of diminishing numbers of several species, including the quoll, which unfortunately makes perfect food.
A fox can live up to eight to ten years, but this is rare in the wild. It reaches sexual maturity at anywhere from one to two years, and will generally produce one litter of up to five pups each year, though the Arctic fox can have up to twelve kits at a time. A few species are considered endangered, including one first noted by Darwin on a Chilean island.