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Gray Fox

GRAY FOX

Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Urocyon cinereoargenteus

OTHER NAMES: Tree Fox

DESCRIPTION:  The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is a dog-like mammal and a member of the family Canidae that includes coyotes, wolves, and foxes.  Gray foxes are small in comparison to coyotes or wolves.  An adult gray fox will weigh between seven and 13 pounds and may stand up to 16 inches at the shoulder.  Head and body length for gray fox rarely exceeds 44 inches – tail length may be up to 16 inches.  As the name implies, gray foxes are a salt and pepper gray along the back and undersides. Their feet, legs and sides are a rust color with the tail being bushy and black tipped with a prominent blackish area down the middorsal line.  Their vocalizations are harsh “yips” that are rarely heard.

DISTRIBUTION:  Gray foxes may be found from the Canadian border to Florida.  They are found throughout the entire state of Alabama.

HABITAT:  Preferred gray fox habitat includes thick brush, wooded lowlands and swamps.  Gray fox populations rarely thrive in more open habitat types commonly associated with their close relative, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

FEEDING HABITS:  Gray foxes readily feed on rabbits, eggs, birds, rodents (mice and rats), and reptiles (snakes and lizards) as well as berries and fruits of various tree and shrub species.

LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY:  Adult gray foxes form pairs and raise their litters in dens or hollow logs.  Most gray foxes will breed during their first year of life during January or February.  Gray foxes produce only a single litter each year. Litter size is typically three to five “kits” that are born after an approximately 63 day gestation period. After their birth, kits may remain in the den for five weeks during which time the adult male will provide food for the female.  Kits are usually weaned after 10 weeks.  Gray foxes are generally solitary animals and are primarily nocturnal (most active at night).  It is not uncommon for gray foxes to climb trees in an attempt to elude predators, and on some occasions, to feed on prey/food items such as reptiles, birds, or eggs.

REFERENCES:

Harper and Row’s Complete Guide to North American Wildlife – Eastern Edition.  1981.  Harper and Row Publishers, Inc.  New York, NY. 714 pp

Author: Bill Gray


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