Have you ever wondered about the differences between a coyote den and a fox den? As wild canines, coyotes and foxes dig dens to birth and raise their young. But their dens can look quite different. In this post, we’ll explore the key differences between coyote dens and fox dens – from where they are located and how they are structured, to how they are used by parents and pups. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, hunter, hiker or farmer, understanding the dens of local predators like coyotes and foxes can satisfy your curiosity and help you know what to look for outdoors. So read on to learn all about coyote vs fox dens!
Coyote Den vs Fox Den
One major difference between coyote and fox dens is their location. Coyotes prefer to dig their dens in the sides of hills, gulches, or banks. This allows them to have the high ground and see any potential predators approaching. Coyote dens are often found in plains, deserts, and other open areas with loose soil that’s easy to dig in.
Foxes, on the other hand, dig their dens in more sheltered, wooded areas. You may find a fox den under the roots of a big tree, amid rocky outcroppings, or tucked into the side of a hill covered in vegetation. Foxes like the extra cover from weather and predators that wooded dens provide.
The actual structure of coyote and fox dens can vary quite a bit too. Coyote dens are usually simple with a single entrance hole leading to an underground chamber. This chamber may have multiple tunnels branching off of it. Some coyote dens can have up to 7 different entrances! But many have just 1-3 holes. Coyote dens are dug out to around 6-8 feet deep.
Fox dens tend to be more complex. Red foxes in particular are known for their extensive burrows with multiple entrances and long tunnels. A red fox den may have up to 15 entrance holes! These holes lead to multiple chambers connected by tunnels up to 20 feet long. Some red fox tunnels even have separate “playrooms” for their kits.
Grey fox dens are often much simpler, with just 1-2 entrance holes, fewer chambers, and shorter tunnels. But they are still more complex than the typical straight tunnel style of a coyote den.
Use by Parents
Coyotes and foxes use their dens a bit differently as parents. Coyote pairs mate for life. They will use the same denning area year after year. Before giving birth, both parents will prepare the den by digging out chambers and lining them with vegetation and fur. The female then gives birth to her pups in the main chamber.
Foxes may not mate for life, but red fox pairs do stay together through the birth and rearing of one litter. Like coyotes, fox parents will prepare their den beforehand. The vixen then gives birth alone in the main birthing chamber. But unlike coyotes, fox dads don’t stick around long to help raise the litter. After just 4-5 weeks, the male fox will leave the den area entirely. The female raises the kits alone.
Use by Pups
Coyote and fox pups also develop differently in their dens. Coyote pups are born blind. They remain in the main chamber of the den for 10-15 days. The parents nurse and care for the pups here. After their eyes open around 2 weeks, the pups start exploring the den tunnels but still spend most of their time in the main chamber.
Fox kits are also born blind, but they become mobile and start exploring the den at just 2 weeks old. At 4 weeks old, they may even start venturing outside the den with their mother. Fox kits play and learn to hunt in the areas around the den.
Coyotes keep their pups more protected. After 4-6 weeks, parents will start bringing food back for the pups to eat. The pups won’t emerge from the den until 5-6 weeks old. Even then, both parents continue to feed and care for them. Fox vixens have just 4-5 weeks of parenting alone before their kits can fend for themselves.
Finally, coyotes and foxes differ in when they abandon their dens. Coyotes use their dens to raise a single litter of pups each year from late spring into the summer. The pups remain active around the den site for 6-10 weeks as they mature. But once they reach adulthood in the fall, the coyotes abandon their den completely.
Foxes may use the same main den to raise multiple litters for several years in a row. Once one litter is grown, the vixen will simply clean out the birthing chamber to make way for the next. Fox dens are not abandoned annually. However, foxes often have multiple den sites that they rotate between over the years.