Wild Animals/Red Fox


So I was doing research, and I saw that a Red Fox Life-span in the the wild was 2 to 4 years, and I wondered why do they live so short in the wild?

Dear Titus

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_fox says that red foxes can live for 15 years in captivity, but rarely survive beyond 5 years in the wild. https://ypte.org.uk/factsheets/fox-red/overview says wild foxes can live to 8 years and http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Vulpes_vulpes/ gives various average lifespans from 3-12 years and https://animalcorner.co.uk/animals/red-fox/ gives figures of up to 12-18 years for urban foxes, but says the average lifespan for wild foxes is 3 years. If the figures of 12-18 years are correct, this probably indicates foxes living in areas where they face little competition and where there is enough food for a large population.
http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/red_fox.htm says most wild foxes live 2-6 years. David Macdonald said only about 5% of foxes live past their fourth birthday; in Oxford city, he and Patrick Doncaster said 63% died in their first year and about 12% reached 2 years. In Macdonald’s undisturbed/un-persecuted study group, 23% lived to five years old. Phil Baker calculated that the average age for a dominant fox was about 4.5 years, while subordinates lived for an average of just over 2 years.
http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Vulpes_vulpes/ says that predators feed mostly on young cubs. Coyotes, wolves and other predators may attack adult foxes, but this is rarely to eat them. The most significant predators are humans, who hunt foxes for fur and kill them as  pests. http://www.ecotarium.org/animals/red-foxsays that the fox has many predators and this, along with humans who kill foxes deliberately or in traffic collisions, may be the main reason why foxes have a shorter than expected life span. Another reason may be diseases, such as rabies.
http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/red_fox.htm gives various causes of fox mortality. These include getting caught in fences, netting and washing lines, falling into water, hypothermia and poisoning. Foxes may also die from bite wounds due to fighting other foxes.
Despite the relatively low lifespan of many foxes in the wild, foxes produce enough cubs to provide stable populations in many areas.

The above information indicates that red foxes can live 12 or more years in the wild, but usually do not. One of the major impacts is human persecution by hunting, with older foxes probably being preferred quarries to produce larger trophies. There are various predators, as well as other causes of death and the large litters may be due to relatively high mortality. I wonder if one problem is due to the fact that foxes are active all year and are susceptible to hypothermia, so it may be difficult for them to survive cold winters.

Like you, it is strange that such a large mammal has such a short lifespan and I wonder if the average lifespan has become shorter over the past few centuries, due to persecution from humans.

I hope this helps.

All the best


Wild Animals

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.