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Gray Fox Information    

Gray fox
Captured Gray Fox
Tucson, Arizona

Gray Foxes

Gray foxes have a unique ability not shared with other wild canines: they can climb trees, using their sharp, stout, slightly curved claws. They ascend headfirst and descend the same way. This characteristic allows them an escape avenue from coyotes looking to make a meal out of them or dogs that trail them.

Unfortunately for the foxes, mountain lions and bobcats, which also occasionally eat them, can climb even better. The foxes are silvery-gray from their long snouts to their bushy tails, topped and tipped with a black streak. Russet fur surrounds their ears and edges their white bellies and the bottom of their tails.

Gray foxes vocalize with hoarse, loud barks that are usually given when they are upset with intruders in their territories.

A gray fox averages 32 to 45 inches in length, including its tail, and weighs an average of 8 pounds. They are found throughout the eastern half of the United States, the Southwest, and north along the Pacific Coast to Oregon. Their preferred habitat includes brushy, rocky, and forested areas. They are usually found on the outskirts of cities and towns rather than within them like coyotes and bobcats.

Rabies is a serious threat to gray fox populations and sporadically reduces them to quite low levels. Litters of four pups are born in the spring and raised by both parents.  High first-year mortality rates means that it takes years to replicate once healthy populations.

Luckily gray foxes are opportunistic foragers and will eat numerous types of food. They hunt anything from rabbit size on down, including rodents, birds, lizards, snakes, and insects. Carrion is always welcomed. Gray foxes will eat juniper berries, mesquite beans, prickly pear fruit, corn, and piñon nuts. They can be stubborn about possible food sources, often disregarding a natural wariness of human presence while concentrating on obtaining something to eat.

Gray foxes that were overcome with an almost crazed fixation on food have occasionally bitten predator callers.

These foxes are usually nocturnal but are sometimes seen out and about in the morning or evening, flowing over the ground pulling their big brushy tails behind them.

A special thanks to Dexter K. Oliver for writing this section.


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