Gray Fox

Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Found in a wide range of habitats, but prefers 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, shredded bark, dried leaves and grass.

  • 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

  • Diet

    Feeds on small- to medium-sized mammals like mice, voles and rabbits; fruit, nuts and grains; invertebrates, including grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies and moths

  • Lifespan

    6 to 8 years

  • Status

    Stable

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

The gray fox has a gray colored back; reddish-brown sides, chest, belly, legs and feet; and white cheeks, muzzle and throat. A thick, black stripe runs from the inner corner of its eyes to its mouth. The fox's long, bushy tail accounts for nearly one-third of body length and has black stripe and black tip. Its ears and muzzle are pointed. Males are slightly larger than females; a gray fox typically weighs 8 to 15 pounds, though have been recorded to weigh as much as 20 pounds. The gray fox can be differentiated from the red fox by coarser fur, shorter snouts, darker eyes and smaller legs and feet.

Feeding

The gray fox is an omnivore whose diet reflects the seasonal abundance of small- to medium-sized mammals like mice, voles and rabbits. It also feeds on fruit, nuts, grains and invertebrates, including grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies and moths. It will 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. The gray fox will escape predators by hiding under brush piles or using retractable claws to climb trees.

Voice

Gray foxes are usually a quiet animal, but when it is vocal, it will bark, growl, snarl, squeal, and screech. The harsh-sounding screech grey foxes emit is probably the most identifiable sound this species makes. 

Ki Steiner via YouTube

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 the 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. The gray fox's lifespan ranges from 6 to 8 years.

Did You Know?

  • 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.
  • Gray foxes can reach speeds up to 28 miles per hour when running.
  • Their musk glands are the largest among North American canids. These glands are located along the upper surface of the tail and are believed to be used for identifying individuals.

Sources and Additional Information

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Found in a wide range of habitats, but prefers 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, shredded bark, dried leaves and grass.

  • 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

  • Diet

    Feeds on small- to medium-sized mammals like mice, voles and rabbits; fruit, nuts and grains; invertebrates, including grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies and moths

  • Lifespan

    6 to 8 years

  • Status

    Stable