Gray Fox

Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Gray Fox

Characteristics

The gray fox is a peppery gray on top, reddish-brown on its sides, chest and the back of its head. Its legs and feet are also a reddish color. It has a long bushy tail with a black stripe on top. The gray fox has pointed ears, a pointed muzzle and long hooked claws.

The gray fox is mainly distinguished from most other canids by its grizzled upper parts, strong neck and black-tipped tail, while the skull can be easily distinguished from all other North American canids by its widely separated temporal ridges that form a U-shape. There is little sexual dimorphism, save for the females being slightly smaller than males. The gray fox ranges from 30 to 44.3 in (76 to 112.5 cm) in total length. The tail measures 10.8 to 17.4 in (27.5 to 44.3 cm) of that length and its hind feet measure 3.9 to 5.9 in (100 to 150 mm). The gray fox typically weighs 7.9 to 15 lb (3.6 to 7 kg), though exceptionally can weigh as much as 20 lb (9 kg). It is readily differentiated from the red fox by the lack of “black stockings” that stand out on the latter. In contrast to all Vulpes and related (Arctic and fennec) foxes, the gray fox has oval (instead of slit-like) pupils.

The gray fox has short legs that are very powerful. These legs are designed to give the fox tremendous ability to balance itself while it climbs. Strong, hooked claws allow them to pull themselves up tree trunks and branches. The color of its fur hides it from predators

Gray Fox Tracks

Habitat

The gray fox prefers wooded and brushy areas of the southwestern United States, but it also lives in the chaparral of California where most of the rainfall is in the winter, while the summers are hot and dry. They don’t like agricultural areas like the red fox. Its den sites are made in rock formations, hollow logs and trees, burrows and brush piles. The dens are often lined with grass and leaves. Some dens may be located 30 ft above the ground.

Diet

The gray fox is a solitary hunter, and eats a lot of different things such as berries, nuts, birds, insects, rabbits and other rodents. The grey fox is an omnivore. If it has more food than it can eat, the fox will bury it and go back later. It will mark the spot with urine so that it can find it when it gets hungry. In the arid regions of the chaparral it will eat more insects and plants than foxes living farther east.

Behavior

The gray fox is the only member of the dog family that can climb trees. It will climb a tree to escape its enemies. It climbs by grabbing the trunk with its forepaws and scrambling up with the long claws on its hind feet. It can make its way through the tree tops by jumping from branch to branch or shimmying down backwards. It will also sit in trees and ambush prey. It is not a fast runner, but can reach speeds of 42 mph for short distances.

Gray foxes are crepuscular animals meaning that they can be out at any time during the day although they tend to hunt at night. They are very territorial and mark their boundaries with urine.

 Breeding

In California, most births occur in April. Usually 2-7 pups are born after 50-60 days. They are dark brown and blind at birth and weigh 3.5 oz. They open their eyes after 10 days. The mother stops nursing the pups after 10 weeks. During this time the father provides the whole family with food. Kits begin to hunt with their parents at the age of 3 months. By the time they are 4 months old, the kits will have developed their permanent dentition and can now easily forage on their own. The family group still remains together until autumn when the young reach sexual maturity. Then, they disperse.

Predators and survival techniques

The gray fox has few predators besides man. Hawks, eagles, owls, bobcats and dogs will kill and eat the pups.

References

Gray Fox, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

www.blueplanetbiomes.org/grey_fox.htm

www.nhptv.org/natureworks/grayfox.htm

 

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