South Carolina’s Lowcountry is home to a tremendous diversity of plants and animals and this is due to the many different varieties of habitats found along the coast. Maritime forests, bottomland hardwood forests, wetlands, salt and brackish marshes, dry and sandy dunes, open fields, pastures, and grasslands, and many others. It is because of this diversity that the Lowcountry is able to support both species of fox found in the United States, both the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Both can be commonly seen in the Lowcountry, but due to their habit of frequenting open areas, it is the red fox that is seen most often.
This little carnivore is native to the United States, although European red foxes were introduced to the southeastern U.S. They are the most geographically spread of all the foxes and are also the largest of the true foxes. Here in the Lowcountry, red foxes excavate multiple burrows and can be found in pastures, fields, and other open habitats. They readily adapt to the presence of humans and are often found in dens located adjacent to vacant lots, golf courses, beaches, etc. They give birth to 3-10 kits in the early spring and the kits emerge from the den about 5-6 weeks later. After they emerge, they can be observed playing and frolicking around the den area, chasing each other from burrow to burrow. They will learn how to forage and will eventually leave the den after about 8 months. Foxes are omnivorous and feed on rodents, birds, fruits, berries, etc. Because of their tendency to raid chicken, goose, and game bird nests like turkey and quail, along with the ability to raid sea turtle nests and feed on both eggs and hatchlings, they are considered to be a nuisance in certain areas.
Foxes are efficient predators and play an important role in the balance of our ecosystems. Because of their success in catching rodents, moles, and other small mammals, they help keep populations of these critters down, many times in the absence of other predators that have been either removed or moved out due to habitat destruction. Either way, they are part of the environment here and another example of the fantastic diversity of flora and fauna found here in the Lowcountry.