Creation 40(3):12–13, July 2018
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The Red Blanket
Australia’s red fox sheds light on migration after the Genesis Flood
The red fox, Vulpes vulpes, with its big ears, bushy tail, and distinctive colour, is the largest, and most common and pervasive of the true foxes. It is the most widespread canine in the world; its habitat stretches right across the Northern Hemisphere and also Australia. It has proven to be an extremely versatile and successful animal, having adapted to, and flourished in, both rural and urban environments.
Between 1845 and 1871, the red fox was deliberately introduced into Australia by Europeans for recreational hunting, in the eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria. Interestingly, the subsequent rapid colonization of Australia by the red fox, the so-called ‘red blanket’, is closely linked to the introduction and spread of the European rabbit,1 which occurred during the same time period, dubbed ‘the grey blanket’.2
This is due to the rabbit being one of the fox’s preferred food sources. Though the fox is an omnivore, even eating grass, fruit and berries in addition to live prey and carrion, in Australia the plentiful wild rabbit can comprise up to one third of its diet.
A good case study
The red fox in Australia provides a well-documented example showing just how quickly animals can spread geographically. Within 100 years, it had spread across 76% of Australia, about 5.8 million km² (2.2 million square miles) of land, which it continues to inhabit today. The only part of Australia that it did not enter is the tropical north, where the climate is unsuitable for it to thrive. Current estimates for fox numbers in Australia range between 7 and 40 million.1,3
It is incredible to think the red fox was able to colonize such a large geographical area in such a short time. This is despite its relatively average birth rate in the animal kingdom. The female (vixen), sexually mature at 9 months, generally only breeds once a year, and can have up to 11 cubs in a litter, but the average is four to five cubs each time. This is far less than the European rabbit, which, like the red fox, is also a declared pest in Australia (see box). The female rabbit is capable of giving birth at just three or four months, and in some areas, can have up to seven babies per litter, up to seven times a year!4
How did migration occur?
Of course it was not the first set of foxes released ‘down under’, nor any other individual foxes, that undertook the huge feat of travelling thousands of kilometres across Australia. Rather, foxes bred and moved on, bred and moved on—progressing gradually by degrees, over generations. This is also true for their spread after the Genesis Flood, when the animals were released from Noah’s Ark (Genesis 8). Foxes, descended from the the ‘canid’ kind,5 have thrived ever since in the northern hemisphere.
But how did it get across sections which are now deep water, for example Asia to North America? Biblical creationists have long explained that there are a number of different possibilities for the distribution of all animals around the world. For example, animals can be transported on floating rafts of vegetation,6 crossing land bridges, and in boats with humans. The red fox in Australia is a prime example of the latter.
Of most significance for the red fox is the effect of the Ice Age, which rapidly followed the Genesis Flood,7 and removed many millions of cubic kilometres of water from the ocean to form huge ice sheets on the land. This exposed land bridges, such as the current (water-covered) Bering Strait, allowing the fox a possible route by which to enter North America. Evolutionists also believe that this is how the red fox arrived in North America, although by contrast, they believe it was during one of many ‘Ice Ages’ rather than the well-evidenced singular Ice Age caused by the global Flood.8
The red blanket surges
Having been introduced on the eastern side of Australia, red foxes were first reported in Western Australia in 1911–12, and by 1934, had reached their current distribution.9 So, well within the first 100 years of their introduction, the fox population had spread at least the 4,000 km (2,500 miles) between Sydney and Perth. The distance between the Mountains of Ararat and the now submerged Bering Strait is over 12,000 km (7,500 miles). But the Ice Age is estimated to have lasted at least 500 years following the Flood. So, based on the red fox’s Australian performance, it could have comfortably crossed the Bering Strait into North America before the ice melted and this route became inaccessible.
Helping to answer Bible skeptics
Bible skeptics often dispute that animals could have spread around the world in such a short time after coming off Noah’s Ark. However, the red fox shows that it does not take millions or even thousands of years for animal populations to travel vast distances and become a part of an eco-system. When examined, the Bible’s history has always proved to be both realistic and trustworthy.
An invasive pest
While the red fox is considered beautiful by many, it has been listed as one of the most destructive species ever introduced to Australia. It is thought to be responsible for the extinction of at least 20 native Australian species to date. Foxes have also caused Australian agricultural industries great economic loss, e.g., from killing lambs and poultry, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The crafty fox also tends to overkill and cache food meaning that if it were injured and unable to hunt for a time, or to face a period of famine, it would have a reserve. The red fox has few natural predators in Australia—other than man— and frequent culls have had little long-term impact on its number.
References and notes
- McLeod, R., Counting the Cost: Impact of Invasive Animals in Australia 2004, p. 19, Cooperative Research Centre for Pest Animal Control, Canberra, 2004. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., The grey blanket: What the story of Australia’s amazing rabbit plague teaches us about the Genesis Flood, Creation 25(4):45–47, 2003; creation.com/blanket. Return to text.
- Figure obtained in 2014 by email correspondence with the Orange Agricultural Institute (New South Wales Department of Primary Industry, Australia). The total number is unknown due to the absence of people from much of that vast country, making estimates of fox density particularly unreliable in those areas. Return to text.
- Davies, E., One animal has more babies than any other, bbc.co.uk/earth, 4 March 2016. Return to text.
- Many leading creationists think foxes (genus Vulpes) are likely the same original kind (family Canidae) as dogs, wolves, coyotes, etc. (genus Canis). At least one example (fox-coyote) of hybridization between these genera is documented. Return to text.
- Statham, D., Natural rafts carried animals around the globe. Creation 33(2):54–55, 2011. Return to text.
- See Ice Age and Mammoths Questions and Answers, creation.com/ice-age. Return to text.
- Aubry, K.B. et al., Phylogeography of the North American red fox: vicariance in Pleistocene forest refugia, Molecular Ecology 18, 2668–2686, 2009 | doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04222.x. ‘Vicariance’ means splitting a population into discontinuous groups by a geographical barrier. Return to text.
- King, D.R., Smith, L.A., The distribution of the European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) in Western Australia, Records of the Western Australian Museum, 12(2):197–205, 1985. Return to text.
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