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Gray Fox

Urocyon cinereoargenteus

The gray fox has a gray back. Its sides, chest, belly, legs and feet are reddish-brown. (Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith/Flickr)
The gray fox has a gray back. Its sides, chest, belly, legs and feet are reddish-brown. (Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith/Flickr)

The gray fox has coarse, gray fur and a black-tipped tail. It can be found from southern Canada to the northern Columbia and Venezuela.

Appearance:

  • Back is gray in color
  • Sides, chest, belly, legs and feet are reddish-brown
  • Cheeks, muzzle and throat are white
  • Thick, black stripe runs from inner corner of eyes to mouth
  • Long, bushy tail accounts for nearly one-third of body length and has black stripe and black tip
  • Ears and muzzle are pointed
  • Males are slightly larger than females
  • Can be differentiated from red fox by coarser fur, shorter snouts, darker eyes and smaller legs and feet

Habitat:

  • Can be found in a wide range of habitats but prefer areas with dense brush or woods close to the water
  • Dens are found in hollow trees or logs, under large rocks or in underground burrows, and contain bedding made from the feathers and fur of prey, shredding bark, dried leaves and grass

Range:

  • Range spans from southern Canada to northern Columbia and Venezuela, excluding portions of the Great Plains and the mountainous parts of the Northwest United States

Feeding:

  • An omnivore whose diet reflects the seasonal abundance of small- to medium-sized mammals like mice, voles and rabbits
  • Also feeds on fruit, nuts, grains and invertebrates, including grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies and moths
  • Store excess food in holes dug in the ground and marked with urine or scent glands

Predators:

  • Predators include bobcats, great-horned owls and coyotes
  • Escape predators by hiding under brush piles or using retractable claws to climb trees

Voice:

  • Communicate by barking and growling
  • During mating season, adults give sharp barks or “yips” to attract mate

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Socializing between these otherwise solitary animals only takes place during mating season, which begins in winter and runs through March
  • About two months after mating, female gives birth to litter of one to seven pups
  • At birth, pups are blind, covered in black fur and weigh about 3 ounces
  • Both parents care for offspring. Males typically provide most of the food scraps and teach pups hunting skills
  • At three to six weeks, pups are weaned and ready to hunt on their own. Pups leave mother at about 10 months old in the fall
  • Males and females are typically monogamous, mating for life
  • Lifespan ranges from 6 to 8 years

Other Facts:

  • The gray fox is the only member of the Canidae family that can climb trees.
  • Dens have been found in the lower forest canopy, roughly 10 meters off the ground.
  • The gray fox can reach speeds up to 28 miles per hour when running.
  • The gray fox has the largest musk gland among North American canids. It is located along the upper surface of the tail and is believed to be used for identifying individuals.

Sources and Additional Information:

  • Gray Fox – Nature Works
  • Gray Fox – University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
  • Gray Fox – Adirondack Ecological Center

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