Ireland's Biodiversity Awareness Campaign


Species of the Month

Below is a list of our previous 'Species of the Month'

Common Yew Tree
Witches' Butter
Hen Harrier
Eurasian Otter
Harbour Porpoise
Butterfiles of Ireland
Barn Owl




July  The Fox – Sionnach/Madra Rua (Vulpus vulpes )

The fox is a common sight in both rural and now increasingly urban Ireland. It is a very enterprising animal and can adapt to living from the countryside to, now, urban areas. The fox is a little bigger than a domestic cat, it has a reddish brown coat and has a long bushy tail called a “brush “ which has a white tip.

The male foxes, called dogs, are slightly larger than the female, which are called vixens. Young foxes are called cubs and are born between February and April. A vixen may have up to five cubs in a litter and usually only one litter a year. The vixen stays with the cubs for the first few weeks and teaches them how to scavenge, by November the cubs are old enough to find their own territories. Many foxes don't survive their first year, and life expectancy is usually four years.

The traditional habitat has been woodland, farmland, mountains, and coastal areas, however there have been more and more sightings in urban areas at night and early morning. Foxes live in underground homes called an  ‘earth’ or ‘den’. Foxes dens are usually well hidden under thick undergrowth, in urban areas a den is usually found in neglected gardens or other dense undergrowth. They have been found living in derelict houses, old sheds, compost heaps and even in scrap yards.

Foxes are nocturnal (mammals that are active at night) and are nimble creatures that fine walls and tree no obstacle. The fox has keep hearing thanks to its pointed ears, their great sence of smell helps them to find food in the most unlikely of places, from farm yards to city bins.

Foxes will eat what they can find, and are called scavengers. They are opportunistic feeds and will eat what is in their area, this could be anything from cat or dog food to rabbits, mice, birds and even insects.

Foxes communicate through a series of barks, yells and screeches but sent is also a very important communication tool to mark out territories.

The foxes flexibility to adapt to any situation and place has been seen in many fairy tales as its cunning and slyness.

Surprisingly Foxes are one of the few species of mammal that are not protected in Ireland this is due to the fact that they are so wide spread in throughout the country, and can be considered by some to be a pest.


Also see the Irish Peatland Conservation Council fact sheet on  Foxes –hyperlink to


©2007 Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government