Episode 314 – Red Fox: Animal Magnetism

“…and today we’re talking about a predator that gives Mouse Dutch Schafer a run for his money. More on that later.”

In the heart of the woodlands, across open fields, and even in bustling urban environments, a folkloric presence reigns supreme. The red fox’s fiery coat and wily spirit have earned it a place in legend, but beyond the myths lies a resilient predator navigating the intricate dance of survival by finding and pouncing on unseen food. Still, this legendary predator uses a near-supernatural attunement to the earth to catch prey in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Red Fox

  • Adorable medium-sized cat-dog-thing
  • Large, wide pointy ears that stick straight up
  • A long, thin snout with beady little eyes
  • Back and head are covered in bright orange fur
  • Cheeks and chest are white
  • Long blackish-orange legs and a bushy grayish-orange tail
  • However, there are other color morphs depending on their melanization – 7 more
    • Smokey
    • Cross
    • Blackish-Brown
    • Silver
    • Platinum
    • Amber
    • Samson

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro!

Mr. Fox from Fantastic Mr. Fox


  • 45–90 cm (18–35 in)
  • How many red foxes go into the length of a cat o’ nine tails?
  • Hint: The cat o’ nine tails is an instrument of punishment for floggings that dates back to the 1600s in England. It is a braided handle that ends with nine, thin whips.
  • 1 fox. The cat is 97 centimeters (38 14 in) long.


  • 2.2–14 kg (4.9–30.9 lb)
  • How many Eastern meadow voles would a fox have to eat to eat its weight in voles?
  • Hint: In North America, a vole is the same thing as a field mouse. They look like mice, hamsters and lemmings, but they have stocky bodies and they usually sit on powerful hind legs.
  • 274.8 voles. A vole is around 0.8 to 1.8 ounces (23 to 51 grams)

Fast Facts about the Red Fox


Lives primarily in the Northern Hemisphere. Large swaths of Eastern North America, all of Europe, most of Asia, and even a smidge of North Africa in the Morocco area. It has also been introduced to Southern Australia.


They are omnivorous and, because they live all over the world, they have been shown to eat more than 300 different animal species as well as several dozen plant species.They need to eat at least 18 oz of food every day. Mostly, they eat small mammals like voles, mice, ground squirrels, hamsters, gerbils, woodchucks, and gophers. They also eat blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, persimmons, mulberries, apples, plums, grapes, acorns, grasses, sedges, and tubers.


Males are called tods and females are called vixens.

Also, because they live all over the world, red foxes need to keep an eye out for a plethora of predators like leopards, caracals, eagles, lynxes, cougars, bobcats, wolves, coyotes, and owls.

Researchers believe that a sort of mutualism exists between Eurasian badgers and red foxes as the fox leaves scraps of food behind and the badger keeps the den clean. One keeps the house clean and the other brings home the bacon.

They compete with a lot of other animals for food and carcasses like hyenas, wolves, other foxes, jackals, buzzards.

Despite there being a viral video a million years ago asking what the fox says, it actually says quite a bit.

It has a wide range of vocalizations that span five octaves including barking, huffing, whining, shrieking, gekkering (rattling), wailing, warbling, chirping.

They use these sounds to find each other (contact calls) and to communicate levels of friendliness (interaction calls).

Major Fact: Animal Magnetism

You might be familiar with the way foxes will jump up in the air and come down onto prey snout-first, even when their food is hiding under snow or vegetation.

But how do they do that?

Foxes have large ears that can help them hunt when visual confirmation of a food source isn’t available. However, researchers believe that they might use another technique to precisely pinpoint their snacks: magnetoreception.  

How do we possibly know this?

A 2011 research paper says that foxes seem to have better success when they are facing the northeast. Attacks toward the north, where cover is increased, are more successful than attacks in other directions.

Researchers also ruled out other factors that might explain this directional preference, including the time of day, season, cloud cover, and wind direction. This could be a case of magnetic alignment that enhances the precision of hunting attacks.

Foxes likely use hearing as a primary means of hunting small concealed prey, but the magnetic alignment might help them judge distance precisely. This is similar to the theory that migratory birds use magnetic fields to judge horizontal distance.

This might work by allowing the fox to estimate distance by moving forward until the sound source coincides with the inclination of the magnetic field. 

The paper suggested a few mechanisms for this ability, including a magnetite-based compass or a light-dependent radical pair reaction in the retina, that could mediate this magnetic targeting system. In other words, they might have a heads up display in their vision that helps them locate prey, like the Predator. 

Ending: So for all you tods and vixens out there in Podcastia, expand your diet, find a nice badger to settle down with, and use magnets to get around like the red fox here in LDT.