Common Name: Gray Fox
Scientific Name: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Population: About 110 mature individuals
Average Life Span: ~6-10 years
Length: Head and body are 3.9-6.6 inches; tail: 11-20 inches
Height: 12 – 16 inches
Weight: 3.9-4.2 kg
Gray Fox – Urocyon Cinereoargenteus
As of the current moment Gray foxes are not a threatened species, however, the loss of their land and homes have required them to adapt, meaning that now they are living closer to humans and industrial places than they normally would. As a species, they are also at pretty high risk from trapping, being hunted down, and becoming roadkill. One risk this species if particularly vulnerable to is the appalling sport that is fox penning.
This is an indefensible and barbaric blood sport in which blood hounds are released into a pen of captive gray foxes ensuing in a terrible dog fighting match. Thankfully however, The Humane Society of the United States is working very hard to end this barbaric sport.
Fortunately, lots of gray foxes live on the Caplan Wildlife Sanctuary in Mississippi, and on other animal sanctuaries, meaning that they will forever live in an area where all commercial and recreational hunting and trapping are prohibited.
Adult gray foxes and newborn gray fox pups tend to vary in color with the adults having a mix of white, red, black, and grey fur covering their body, and the pups usually being born with a single shade of dark brown fur enveloping their tiny bodies.
The gray fox, unlike some other foxes, has pretty short legs, moderate body length, meaning it’s not minuscule like some, and not huge like others, it also has a pretty elongated torso in comparison to some other foxes. The weight of the gray fox depends on its habitat, foxes that live in higher elevations tend to be a bit bigger than foxes that live on more level grounds, that being said, the average weight of a gray fox ranges between 3-5 kg, but can go up to about 9 kg.
As most species of foxes, the male gray fox tends to be larger than the female not only outwardly but also in its skeletal make up. Research has shown that male gray foxes have longer pelvises, wider scapulae, and limbs that are more robust than their female partners, however, generally gray foxes can grow up to 1 meter in length with their tails making up almost a third of their total body length!
One unique feature about this fox is that you can tell is apart by its tail. The gray foxes tail has a very distinct black strip along the dorsal surface, and a prominent black tip at the end. The top of its head, sides, back, and rest of its tail is grey, with its chest, legs, belly, and sides of face being a gorgeous reddish brown color, last but not least, its cheeks, throat, and muzzle are covered in a crisp white fur. The eyes of the gray fox are oval in shape with a thick black stripe running from the inner corner of the eye down to its mouth.
When it comes to the anatomy of gray foxes, they are known to have extremely sharp claws that, like most foxes, stay out at all times. The purpose of having these sharp talents is for them to use in the digging of dens, gathering any food that may be under the ground, and climbing trees, which is a feature that is unique to only them.
Their claws give them the astounding ability to climb vertically, up to 18 feet above the ground! Another perk in having such sharp claws is that they can use them to grab onto their prey and to fight off any predators they may come into contact with. The Gray Fox has a body that is built for speed, they can move at a speed of over 28 miles per hour and can keep this pace up for a long period of time. Although they are slender in build, they are extremely strong animals.
The ears of the Gray Fox are special because of how long and pointed they are, this means that they are able to hear better than most animals. Not only do they have impeccable hearing, they also have great eyesight. Their sense of smell is also a prominent feature. With all these amazing qualities, they can use their combined senses in order to survive and thrive in whatever environment they may be placed in.
The gray fox is a type of fox that loves to swim which is why they are often found living by bodies of water. The purpose for this is they use the water as a hunting method, meaning that they chase their prey into the water, the prey drowns, and the fox goes into the water to retrieve its food. Since they can run more than 20 miles per hour with ease they won’t be tired when they get to the water but their prey will be exhausted, making it very vulnerable to drown.
The gray fox is a nocturnal animal, which means it hunts its food during the wee hours of the night, they also are known to be quite solitary animals, however, during the winter they will be seen socializing in order to find a mate, they also socialize with their offspring until they are ready to leave the den and become independent. The most unique feature of this animal however is its ability to climb.
Unlike other canines, gray foxes have semi-retractable claws that stay sharp and enable gray foxes to grasp tree trunks. Gray foxes also have the ability to rotate their forearms and climb up a tree by grasping it with its forearms and pushing up against the tree with its hind feet.
They will climb as high as 50 or 60 feet and will jump from branch to branch so that they can rest, forage, or escape from other predators that may be trying to catch it. To get down from the tree, they run head first down the vertical trees with their head up to create balance, then lowering themselves down by their front limbs.
Diet / Feeding
Due to their versatility, the Gray Fox has no trouble at all finding a variety of foods in their natural habitat. The gray fox is an omnivore, and its main diet consists of cottontails, voles, shrews, birds, and even snails!
Gray foxes that live in California tend to eat a lot of rodents, jackrabbits, and lagomorphs, while gray foxes that live in western parts of the United States eat mostly insects and plants. During certain seasons they will take advantage of certain nuts, berries, and fruits that grow in specific areas. In the summertime both crickets and grasshoppers are a food source that are very plentiful and readily available.
The Gray Fox will consume them any given day in order to help supplement their diet, and since these foxes have such a huge appetite, they will spend many hours per night searching for, and consuming whatever food they get.
This particular fox is very picky when it comes to choosing their mate. The reason for this being the fact that when they choose a partner, they will mate with them for life. The only exception for this would be if its mate dies. However, even if their partner dies, it will take them several years before they give up their home and find another mate to live with.
For the Gray Fox, the mating season depends on where they happen to live, and what climate they are in. To give the young the best chance of survival they are born during the warmer time of year, meaning that the time for mating is usually in the month of January, and can stretch into May. The gestation period for the Gray fox is about 51- 63 days, meaning that the female gives birth to its litter usually in late March, early April.
The size of the litter can range from one pup at minimum, to seven pups maximum. An issue with larger litters is that sometimes there won’t be enough food for all of them, meaning that only the strongest and the largest of the young will be able to survive this critical time. The pups tend to remain in the den with their mother until they are about three months old, during this period of time the male will have the responsibility to bring the female food so that she can make milk to feed the young.
At about the three month mark, the baby Gray foxes will emerge from the den and will then need to figure things out on their own from that point forward. Within a month that they are out there on their own, the teen foxes leave their parents territory to go find their own land to live on. At this point the mating pair, mom and dad, will go their separate ways until the following mating season.
The life span of the Gray fox is quite long, they live an average of 16 years but that can increase to about 20 years if they are brought up in captivity. Like their parents, the young are ready to mate when they are about one year of age.
Habitat / Distribution
The Gray Fox is a species that is found in many locations around North America. The majority of them however live in Columbia, parts of Canada, and Venezuela. In the United States they are found living everywhere except in the open plains and in the Rocky Mountains.
Although this species of fox is so widely distributed, they may be hard to see as they spend most of their time in the brush or woodlands surrounding their dens. Sometimes they may be found in the open areas searching for food, but considering they are nocturnal, the chance of seeing one is quite small.
Although the Gray fox preys on animals, there are some carnivores that this fox must watch out for. Ifor the most part it is the young foxes that have left their parents’ den and are exploring their own territory that are the most vulnerable to getting preyed upon. The predators that the Gray fox has to be concerned with really depends on where the fox is found. The coyote is the most common predator of the Gray fox since they are carnivores that can live in a variety of habitats and environments. Other predators include bobcats, Great Horned Owls, and the Golden Eagle, all these birds specialize in hunting these smaller foxes because they are equipped with sharp, powerful talents that latch onto the fox and pull it up into the air.
Another common predator of these foxes are humans, Due to the fact that they enjoy hunting the Gray Fox for sport. In some areas there are specific hunting seasons that are specifically made for hunting the Gray fox. Although some people hunt the foxes for sport, others hunt them to control the number of these animals that could quickly get out of hand, if that happened then the foxes would be fighting for food and territory and the chances of disease spreading across them would increase, making it dangerous for humans as well.
Sometimes the Gray Fox is hunted to keep it away from livestock and pets.This has become more and more common too due to the fact that humans continue to move into the territories where these animals were once able to move around freely. Since they search for easy prey, they aren’t going to pass up the opportunity to eat animals that are herded into easy-to-grab locations.
Gray foxes are not known to bother people or residential areas, however this is not always true mainly because humans take over lots of land for construction, farming, and raising animals, in turn, this limits the natural territory of these foxes then forcing it to have to repopulate in areas where there may be a lot of human traffic.
This animal likes to live in places that have a lot of trees and forests, so when those are cut down by humans it can cause a disrupt in its natural behavior making it more prone to have to hunt for food in farms, herding spots, and anywhere there may be food. As humans take over more and more land, the Gray fox has to adapt more and more to its surroundings, and due to this, they may become more of an inconvenience to humans because of their primal need to survive.
History of the Red Fox
DNA testing reveals that the Gray Fox isn’t very closely related to other canines that exist. It is believed, however, to be the oldest of all fox species in the world! They are believed to be more than 10 million years old. However, there is still quite a bit of information we don’t understand about the evolution process for the Gray Fox.
It isn’t really known why they are so different in appearance and DNA structure than other species of fox, but a theory is that they were once isolated to a particular area of the world, and in turn needed to have certain characteristics in place in order to survive. Since the Gray foxes are highly adaptable animals and that is why they have been able to survive all these years and thrive wherever they are, and whatever circumstances they may encounter.