Gray Fox: Urocyon Cinereoargenteus
Description Of The Gray Fox
Fully grown gray foxes exhibit a mix of white, red, black, and gray fur. Newly born pups, however, tend to be dark brown. Gray foxes are medium-sized canids with long bodies and shorter legs.
High-elevation individuals are slightly larger than their low-elevation counterparts. Males are somewhat larger than females, and skeletal measurements show longer pelvises and calcanea, wider scapulae, and stronger limb bones in males.
Their tail makes up about one-third of their total body length and along the dorsal surface. The chest, underbelly, legs, and sides of the face are reddish-brown. The fox’s head, sides, tail, and back are covered in white fur.
Gray foxes have oval-shaped pupils, and from the outside corner of the eye to the side of the head, the area around the eyes has a thin black stripe. Sometimes they are misidentified as red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), but red foxes have slit-shaped eyes, larger feet, longer legs, and a slimmer body. 1Go To Source animaldiversity.org -“Urocyon cinereoargenteus gray fox”
Learn More: North American Foxes
Gray Fox Size
Measurements of the average adult gray fox:
- Weight: 5-14 lbs
- Height: 15 in
- Total Length: 35-44 in
- Ear Length: 2.5-3 in
- Tail Length: 11-15.5 in 2Go To Source tn.gov -“Gray Fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus”
Habitat Of Gray Foxes
In deciduous forests interspersed with brushy, wooded areas, gray foxes prefer to live. Where woodland and farmland meet, many gray foxes live, but their relative red foxes visit agricultural regions more often.
Gray foxes prefer to be near water. They will generally den within trees/logs, in between large rocks, and inside underground burrows. In hollow tree trunks and limbs, dens have also been found in the lower forest canopy, 10 m above the forest floor. Gray foxes are the only fox species capable of climbing trees. They are most often found at an elevation below 3000 m. 3Go To Source biokids.umich.edu -“Gray fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus”
Gray Fox Range & Distribution
Gray foxes are found in much of the continental U.S., southern Canada, and Mexico. Gray foxes are absent west of Minnesota from portions of the western United States. Gray foxes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are more common regionally than in other Great Lakes states.
North America, Central America, and the northwest corner of South America are limited to Urocyon cinereoargenteus worldwide. The only other species in this fox’s genus is Urocyon littoralis, and it’s restricted to the Channel Islands off California’s southern coast. 4Go To Source mnmammals.d.umn.edu -“Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)”
Behavior Of The Gray Fox
Gray fox dens can be used at any time of year, but most use occurs during the whelping (birthing) season. In general, dens are located in wooded or brushed habitats and are less obvious than a red fox. They do not dig their own den and use abandoned woodchuck dens or other tiny mammal dens infrequently. Hollow logs or trees, rocky outcrops, or thick brush prefer to be used. As both temporary dens and a place to rear their youth, they will also use abandoned houses or under manmade structures such as sheds or abandoned woodpiles.
The most noticed adaptation of the gray fox is tree climbing. There have been reports of a gray fox den several yards above the ground. Not only is this beneficial for escaping predators such as coyotes, but it can also improve their ability to find food.
They will grip trees with their front paws and push off the ground with their hind legs. As they climb up a tree, they will release and regrip to gain height. They tend to jump from branch to branch once they’re up in a crown. The descent is backward or will run down the tree’s trunk if the tree is leaning.
Gray fox prefers to hunt thicker cover than the more timid red fox because of their more aggressive behavior. The gray fox’s preference for thicker cover, aggressive behavior, and the ability to climb trees minimize their decline due to hunting by eastern coyotes. 5Go To Source dec.ny.gov -“Gray Fox”
Gray Fox Reproduction Cycle
In January, gray foxes mate, and during March or April, three to five pups are born. A gray fox uses a ground den less frequently than red foxes, and a hollow tree or log or burrow concealed in outcroppings of rock may be used.
For a minimum of one season, gray foxes remain mated and may stay together for life. When the female is nursing, the male brings food to the female, and when the pups begin eating solid food, he helps her to catch and bring food to them. In early fall, the family group breaks up when the youngsters have learned to hunt and can fend for themselves. 6Go To Source in.gov -“Gray Fox”
Diet Of The Gray Fox
The gray fox is a lonely hunter and eats a wide range of food sources. Small mammals like mice, voles, and eastern cottontail rabbits make up a large part of its diet.
Birds, insects, and plants such as corn, apples, nuts, berries, and grass are also eaten. Grasshoppers and crickets are an essential part of their diet in the summer and autumn. 7Go To Source nhpbs.org -“Gray Fox – Urocyon cinereoargenteus”
Gray Fox Predation
Cougars, eagles, owls, bobcats, hawks, coyotes, and people who kill them for their fur are the top prey of the Gray Fox. Every year, more than 500,000 foxes are trapped to meet the ever-increasing demand for their fur. 8Go To Source desertmuseum.org -“Animal Fact Sheet: Gray Fox”
Disease & Parasites Affecting Gray Foxes
Many parasites, including lice, fleas, ticks, mites, flukes, and worms, can afflict foxes. Red foxes appear to be more likely than gray foxes to be infected, but both species can contract rabies. When they overpopulate an area, illnesses and parasites strike foxes the hardest. This is the way nature manages an excessive population. 9Go To Source pgc.pa.gov -“Foxes”
- Vu, L. 2011. “Urocyon cinereoargenteus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 01, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Urocyon_cinereoargenteus/
- “Gray Fox | State of Tennessee, Wildlife Resources Agency.” Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, TN.gov, www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/mammals/large/gray-fox.html. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.
- Vu, L. 2011. “Urocyon cinereoargenteus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 01, 2021 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Urocyon_cinereoargenteus/
- “Gray Fox (Urocyon Cinereoargenteus) | Minnesota Mammals | UMN Duluth.” University Of Minnesota Duluth, University of Minnesota, mnmammals.d.umn.edu/gray-fox. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.
- “Gray Fox – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation.” New York State, New York State, www.dec.ny.gov/animals/63058.html. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.
- “DNR: Gray Fox.” Indiana Department Of Natural Resources, IN DNR, www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3372.htm. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.
- “Gray Fox – Urocyon Cinereoargenteus – NatureWorks.” Nature Works, New Hampshire PBS, nhpbs.org/natureworks/grayfox.htm. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.
- “Foothills Palo Verde Fact Sheet.” Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, www.desertmuseum.org/kids/oz/long-fact-sheets/Gray%20Fox.php#:%7E:text=Gray%20fox%20prefer%20rocky%20canyons,areas%2C%20open%20desert%20and%20grasslands.&text=Gray%20fox%20ranges%20from%20southern,and%20parts%20of%20South%20America. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.
- PGC. “Foxes Wildlife Note.” Pennsylvania Game Commission, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, www.pgc.pa.gov/Education/WildlifeNotesIndex/Pages/Foxes.aspx. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.