Q: I’ve spotted this red fox on several occasions. It appears to have longer legs than a typical fox. Can you explain why?
Like juveniles of many species, this lanky fox (Vulpes vulpes) has not yet grown into its ears and legs. It also appears to be healthy but slightly underweight, which contributes to the illusion its legs are unusually lengthy.
Rabbits, mice, and rats are staples of a red fox’s diet. When food is plentiful, a fox typically kills more than it eats. This surplus is usually buried in the ground or covered with grass or leaves and sprinkled with urine. Red foxes can eat about a pound of meat at a feeding. Foxes often capture and store shrews and moles, but they rarely eat them. Sometimes the cached food is discovered and eaten by skunks, crows, owls, hawks, or other foxes.
When stalking prey, a fox either takes high, deliberate steps or crouches low and approaches surreptitiously. It then rushes or pounces on the unwary victim, which is killed by a bite from its powerful jaws.
Red foxes prefer the borders of forested areas and adjacent open lands, avoiding dense and extensive forests. During most of the year, red foxes sleep on the ground in sheltered spots. During the breeding season, though, they provide a den for their young. In urban and suburban areas, many people enjoy their encounters with foxes. To learn more about these canines, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZHz.
Q: I found this frog in my pool. What species is it?
This is a wood frog, Lithobates sylvaticus. These frogs are tan, pinkish tan, or brown and sport a dark brown mask through the eyes and ears.
In Missouri, this rare species lives in cool, forested ravines where small, fishless ponds or pools are available for late winter to early spring breeding. They live mainly in mature forests on the eastern side of the state and are known to overwinter on land beneath deep layers of leaves or under moist logs.
Wood frogs are a species of conservation concern in Missouri; however, they are expanding their range and becoming more common throughout parts of Missouri. They have quite a large range from New England to Alaska with numerous isolated populations as far south as Arkansas and Alabama.
Wood frogs feed on a variety of insects and other invertebrates. Their voice is a quick series of waaaduck sounds. To learn more about these frogs, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZHD.
This Issue's Staff
Angie Daly Morfeld