If you find a baby fox …

Young foxes have the best chance of survival when cared for by their parents.

A young red fox kit sits outside, looking toward the viewer. the fox has a white tip on its tail, identifying it as a Red fox

Both Red and Gray Foxes are found in Virginia, populating diverse habitats in forests, fields, swamps, and riparian habitats in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Foxes reproduce in the winter, typically December - April, depending on the species. One litter is born each year in a den, with litter sizes averaging from 2-7 pups. Dens can be found in a variety of locations, including under trees, rock crevices, or even under sheds and porches.

Baby foxes start emerging from their dens at about four weeks of age. Once the weaning process begins at about two months of age, foxes begin to explore their environment, play with their siblings, and eat food brought by their parents. At about three months of age, the babies should be fully furred and skittish around people. They should also be able to run and jump appropriately. 

Due to the spread of Echinococcus multilocularis, a parasitic tapeworm infection, rehabilitation of foxes in some Northern Virginia counties is restricted. These restricted counties include Clark, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Warren, and Prince William. Injured or orphaned foxes in these counties, cannot be moved outside of the county and must be rehabilitated in the county of origin. If you find an injured or orphaned fox in any of these counties, please reach out to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator in your area. 

If you find a baby fox, do any of the following apply?

  • A fox face peeks out of a cardboard box. A pile of towels are visible as well.The fox is covered in flies and/or fly eggs. These usually look like very small grains of rice attached to the fur and can also be found in the ears.
  • The fox is vocalizing frequently and approaching people.
  • It has an obvious injury or deformity or appears sick and lethargic.
  • The fox has been caught by a dog or cat.
  • It is known with absolute certainty that the parent has been killed or illegally trapped and relocated.
  • An eye-closed fox is observed outside of a den for more than two hours. Kits this young should be in the den at all times, unless their mother is moving them to another den nearby.

If YES, the fox is likely injured or orphaned. Contact your nearest permitted wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian for treatment. Do not give the baby food or water!

If NO, and the kit appears alert, healthy, and wary of people, continue monitoring the denning area. If a deceased adult is found, consider placing a trail camera on the entrance to the den to confirm if other adult family members are still feeding the kits.

Never give food or water to injured or orphaned foxes. Inappropriate food or feeding techniques can lead to sickness or death; additionally, hand-feeding young foxes may qualify as a potential exposure since they are high-risk rabies species. 

Avoid handling foxes directly; if you must pick up a baby fox to contain it, always wear gloves, even with very young kits. Foxes are high-risk rabies species in Virginia; health departments will need to test foxes – even very young kits – for rabies if exposure occurs. 

Fox or Coyote?

Coyotes are another wild canine species found in Virginia; while many people can identify adults of these species, sometimes young kits or pups are harder to tell apart. In Virginia, it is not legal to rehabilitate and release coyotes. Properly identifying these species can be very helpful in determining if further action is needed. 

A young fox kit in someone's gloved hands. The fox has short ears and a rounded face.
Fox Kit
A coyote pup in someone's gloved hand. The pup's face is broader than the fox kit pictured here, and has a wider snout and longer ears.
Coyote pup

Distinguishing between these two wild candids can be challenging, though generally speaking, fox kits have a much narrower face and smaller ears. Coyote pups look more like domestic puppies, with broader snouts and larger feet. 

Each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival. Inappropriate food or feeding techniques can lead to sickness or death. Raising a wild mammal in captivity is illegal unless you have a state permit. For information on how you can become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator, visit our Wildlife Care Academy and contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources or your state's wildlife agency.