Scroll down for a larger collection of red fox sketches. They are from School Arts magazine, volume fifteen (1916, I think).
If you have never seen a red fox (at the zoo, in the wild, on a nature program), it would probably be good to look at a few pictures- try here or this video of a fox diving after field mice in the snow, or this one of some adorable fox kits.
For younger children, you might read aloud stories about Reddy Fox while they colour.
For children about 10 and up, read this (or let them read it) from Comstock’s Nature Study book:
“DO we not always, on a clear morning of winter, feel a thrill that must have something primitive in its quality, at seeing certain tracks in the snow that somehow suggest wildness and freedom! Such is the track of the fox. Although it is somewhat like that of a small dog yet it is very different. The fox has longer legs than most dogs of his weight, and there is more of freedom in his track and more of strength and agility expressed in it. His gait is usually an easy lope; this places the imprint of three feet in a line, one ahead of another, but the fourth is off a little at one side, as if to keep the balance.(see also: http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/common-plants-and-animals/mammals/mammal-tracks)
The fox lives in a den or burrow. The only fox home which I ever saw, was a rather deep cave beneath the roots of a stump, and there was no burrow or retreat beyond it. However, foxes often select woodchuck burrows, or make burrows of their own, and if they are caught within, they can dig rapidly, as many a hunter can attest. The mother usually selects an open place for a den for the young foxes; often an open field or side-hill is chosen for this. The den is carpeted with grass and is a very comfortable place for the fox puppies.
The den of the father fox is usually not far away.
The face of the red fox shows plainly why he has been able to cope with man, and thrive despite and because of him. If ever a face showed cunning, it is his. Its pointed, slender nose gives it an expression of extreme cleverness, while the width of the head between the upstanding, triangular ears gives room for a brain of power.
In color the fox is russet-red, the hind quarters being grayish. The legs are black outside and white inside; the throat is white, and the broad, triangular ears are tipped with black. The glory of the fox is his “brush,” as the beautiful, bushy tail is called. This is red, with black toward the end and white-tipped. This tail is not merely for beauty, for it affords the fox warmth during the winter, as any one may see who has observed the way it is wrapped around the sleeping animal. But this bushy tail is a disadvantage, if it becomes bedraggled and heavy with snow and sleet, when the hounds are giving close chase to its owner.
The fox is an inveterate hunter of the animals of the field; meadow mice, rabbits, woodchucks, frogs, snakes and grasshoppers, are all acceptable food; he is also destructive of birds. His fondness for the latter has given him a bad reputation with the farmer because of his attacks on poultry. Not only will he raid hen-roosts if he can force entrance, but he catches many fowls in the summer when they are wandering through the fields. The way he carries the heavy burden of his larger prey shows his cleverness: He slings a hen or a goose over his shoulders, keeping the head in his mouth to steady the burden.
Mr.Cram says, in American Animals: “Yet, although the farmer and the fox are such inveterate enemies, they manage to benefit each other in a great many ways quite unintentionally. The fox destroys numberless field mice and woodchucks for the farmer and in return the farmer supplies him with poultry, and builds convenient bridges over streams and wet places, which the fox crosses oftener than the farmer, for he is as sensitive as a cat about getting his feet wet. On the whole, I am inclined to believe that the fox gets the best part of the exchange, for, while the farmer shoots at him on every occasion, and hunts him with dogs in the winter, he has cleared the land of wolves and panthers, so that foxes are probably safer than before any land was ploughed.”
The bark of the fox is a high, sharp yelp, more like the bark of the coyote than of the dog. There is no doubt a considerable range of meaning in the fox’s language, of which we are ignorant. He growls when angry, and when pleased he smiles like a dog and wags his beautiful tail.
Many are the wiles of the fox to head off dogs following his track: he often retraces his own steps for a few yards and then makes a long sidewise jump; the dogs go on, up to the end of the trail pocket, and try in vain to get the scent from that point. Sometimes he walks along the top rails of fences or takes the high and dry ridges where the scent will not remain; he often follows roads and beaten paths and also goes around and around in the midst of a herd of cattle, so that his scent is hidden; he crosses streams on logs and invents various other devices too numerous and intricate to describe. When chased by dogs, he naturally runs in a circle, probably so as not to be too far from home. If there are young ones in the den, the father fox leads the hounds far away, in the next county, if possible. Perhaps one of the most clever tricks of the fox, is to make friends with the dogs. I have known of two instances where a dog and fox were daily companions and playfellows.
The young foxes are born in the spring. They are black at first and are fascinating little creatures, being exceedingly playful and active. Their parents are very devoted to them, and during all their puppyhood, the mother fox is a menace to the poultry of the region, because the necessity is upon her of feeding her rapidly growing litter.
In my opinion, the best story of animal fiction is “Red Fox” by Roberts. Like all good fiction, it is based upon facts and it presents a wholesome picture of the life of the successful fox. “The Silver Fox” by Thompson Seton is another interesting and delightful story. Although the Nights with Uncle Remus could scarcely be called nature stories, yet they are interesting in showing how the fox has become a part of folk-lore.”
DHM’s note: Red Fox does look like a great story, but it’s around 300 pages long. I’d save it for a free read for somebody who really loves animal stories.