The average lifespan of foxes depends on their species. Red foxes have an average lifespan of four years in the wild, while they reach up to 14 years in captivity. Fennec foxes live up to 10 years in the wild and 14 years in captivity. The most common causes for the short life span of foxes are lack of food, weather conditions, and predators.
There are 23 species of foxes that are divided into two large categories: true foxes and false foxes. All foxes are part of the Canidae family, a family that also includes wolves, coyotes, and dogs.
Foxes are found all over the world, and the average lifespan of foxes differs depending on where they live. It also differs among species.
Wild and pet foxes also have vastly different lifespans.
This article covers the average lifespan of each fox species, the biological life cycle of foxes, how long they actually live, and more.
Foxes’ Average Lifespan
The average lifespan of foxes is about three to four years, depending on the species and environmental conditions. Foxes that live in areas with abundant food and few predators live longer. Pet and urban foxes also live longer than wild ones.
The average lifespan of a fox depends on the species and external factors:
- Food availability
- Weather conditions
Wild foxes live about three to four years.
They have a high mortality rate in their first year of life as they are underdeveloped and vulnerable to predator attacks.
Foxes can also die from accidents. This is most common for males and young foxes as they explore more than adult females.
Fox cubs that stray from their group also have a higher chance of dying than those that stay with their family.
Red Foxes’ Lifespan
Red foxes are the most common species of foxes, found even in the big cities. There is a big difference in the average lifespan of wild foxes and pet or urban foxes. This is because wild foxes live in harsher conditions.
Wild red foxes live for around four years, while those raised in captivity can live for up to 14 years. Foxes that live in a region free of predators with favorable conditions live much longer.
The longest-living fox was 33 years old.
Life Cycle of Foxes
Fox cubs are born blind and deaf, relying on their mother for food. They feed on their mother’s milk until three to four weeks of age and start foraging after about two months. They are fully grown when they reach 9-12 months of age.
The life cycle of foxes is specific. They mate in the same season and have the same life structure throughout the seasons.
The major difference is between the foxes that live in the northern and southern hemispheres. For foxes in the southern hemisphere, everything is shifted six months compared with those from the northern hemisphere.
Most foxes are generally monogamous are mate once a year. In some species, the males mate with several females.
Foxes mate in winter from December to March (in the Northern Hemisphere) or from June to September (in the Southern Hemisphere). The mating season is short, and females are in heat for three days. Not all females go into heat at the same time.
After mating, the pregnancy lasts an average of 53 days. The female gives birth to an average of 4-5 cubs in the den. They are usually born in the spring and are deaf and blind.
The female stays with her cubs until they get bigger and can eat solid food, while the male hunts and brings food all this time.
|Foxes are born deaf and blind. They feed on their mother’s milk while the male protects and forages.
|3-4 weeks old
|The kits feed on their mother’s milk until they are 3-4 weeks old, after which they start eating solid food.
|1 month old
|At the age of one month, fox cubs start going outside the den to play and explore.
|1-3 months old
|In the summer months, the den is somewhat abandoned because the cubs are learning how to hunt and find food.
|3 months old
|At the end of the summer, the fox cubs have grown considerably and look more like adults.
|6-12 months old
|The young foxes are fully developed by the beginning of autumn and leave the area where they grew up. At the age of 9-12 months, fox cubs are suitable for reproduction and can start a family.
How Long Do Foxes Live in the Wild?
Wild foxes live between 4-10 years. The average lifespan for wild foxes is shorter than those that live in captivity or near cities. This is due to the harsh conditions in which some species of foxes live.
Wild foxes live shorter lives because they’re prone to diseases, attacks from predators, and food shortages. The more food and fewer predators there are, the longer they live.
Many foxes die when they are cubs because they fall prey to larger animals. Many also die because they venture away from their family and can’t fend for themselves.
Besides these factors, different species also have different lifespans.
Foxes’ Lifespan in the Wild According To Species
There are 23 fox species, and the average lifespan varies among them.
|Average lifespan in the wild
|Simien fox (Canis simensis)
|Crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous)
|Culpeo Fox (Lycalopex culpaeus)
|Darwin’s Fox (Lycalopex fulvipes)
|South American Gray Fox (Lycalopex griseus)
|Pampas Fox (Lycalopex gymnocercus)
|Sechuran Fox (Lycalopex sechurae)
|Hoary Fox (Lycalopex vetulus)
|Have not been recorded.
|Bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis)
|Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
|Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis)
|Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus)
|Bengal Fox (Vulpes bengalensis)
|Blanford’s Fox (Vulpes cana)
|Cape Fox (Vulpes chama)
|Corsac Fox (Vulpes corsac)
|Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda)
|Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis)
|Pale Fox (Vulpes pallida)
|Rüppell’s Fox (Vulpes rueppellii)
|Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
|Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)
|Tibetan Sand Fox (Vulpes ferrilata)
Why Do Foxes Have Short Lifespans?
Wild animals have such a short lifespan precisely because they live in the wild. They depend on certain environmental conditions, such as food availability, to survive.
Wild foxes don’t have the luxury of health care, shelter, and safety like foxes in captivity. The harsh conditions result in early lives and many fatalities among offspring.
Fox cubs are defenseless, especially in the first two weeks of life as they are blind and deaf. They rely on their mother for protection.
If a predator enters the den where the mother fox resides with her newborn cubs, they will most likely die.
Fox cubs can also be attacked and eaten when the mother moves them from one den to another. She has to make several trips to move everyone to the new den. Those who stay behind are without protection.
Even if they have enough supplies and the predators are few, foxes die from bacterial infections. They don’t receive the same care as pet foxes. Diseases that are easily curable for foxes in captivity are fatal to wild foxes.
How Long Do Foxes Live as Pets?
Pet foxes can live up to 14 years if all their needs are met. Red foxes and Fennec foxes are the most popular species people keep as pets, both living 14 years in captivity.
Pet foxes live at least twice as long as wild foxes. This is possible because they have a steady supply of food, health care, and safety from predators.
Wild foxes fall prey to larger predators such as bears, wolves, lions, or tigers. When foxes are raised as pets, this danger is non-existent.
|Pet fox species
How Long Do Urban Foxes Live?
Foxes that live in or near cities (also called “Urban foxes”) are red foxes. They live an average of 14 years because they have better living conditions than foxes in the wild have.
Urban foxes (or those living near human settlements) can hunt a greater variety of animals:
- Birds, including poultry
- Small cats
- Field mice
- Other small mammals
Because foxes are omnivorous, the rest of their diet comes from food scraps, pet food, and fallen fruits from orchards.
Most Common Cause of Death for Foxes
The most common causes of death for foxes are starvation, predators, parasites, and disease. Other causes include floods and accidents. The most common cause of death for urban foxes is car accidents.
The most common causes of death among wild foxes are:
Other causes for which foxes die are floods and accidents.
An eight-year study in which 48 red foxes and 35 gray foxes were examined revealed the most common causes of death for these two species.
The most common cause of death was abandonment (33%), followed by:
- Trauma: 27%
- Undetermined diagnosis: 23%
- Sarcoptic mange: 17%
Regarding gray foxes, the following result was reached:
- Trauma: 46%
- Abandonment: 23%
- Undetermined diagnosis: 20%
- Toxoplasmosis: 6%
- Canine distemper: 3%
- Rabies: 3%
The conclusion of the study was that trauma and orphaned animals are more frequent causes of death than infectious diseases among foxes.
The most common cause of death for urban foxes is road accidents. Males and young foxes go to explore and often end up in the middle of the road.
Why Do Foxes Only Live 3 Years?
Red foxes live only three years because the conditions in the wild are difficult. They can be killed by larger animals or die due to diseases, starvation, or unfavorable weather conditions.
How Old Is the Oldest Fox?
The oldest fox known to live was a pet red fox that lived for 33 years. The average lifespan of wild foxes is 4-10 years, but it depends on the species.
How Long Do Red Foxes Live?
Red foxes live in the wild for about 3-4 years. The most common causes of death for wild red foxes are abandonment, trauma, predators, or parasites. Pet red foxes live around 14 years if they are taken good care of.
How Long Do Fennec Foxes Live?
Fennec foxes live on average 10 years in the wild and 14 years in captivity. They do not make great pets because they are a wild species. They are energetic, agile, and can bite.
How Long Do Arctic Foxes Live?
Arctic foxes live on average six years in the wild and 14 years in captivity. These foxes do not make great pets either because you need to keep them cool at all times, being an arctic species that lives in the snow.