Description: Grizzled gray above, reddish on lower sides, chest, and back of head; throat and belly white. Tail similarly colored, but has black “mane” on top and black tip. Legs and feet rust-colored. Ears prominent. Ht 14 1/8-15″ (36-38 cm); L 31-44″ (80-113 cm); T 8 5/8-17 3/8″ (22-44 cm); HF 3 7/8-5 7/8″ (10-15 cm); E 2 3/4-3G0 (7-8 cm); Wt 7 1/4-13 lb (3.3-5.9 kg).
Similar Species: Red Fox has white tail tip. Kit Fox is smaller and has yellowish-buff fur with black tail tip.
Signs: Tree and scent posts marked with urine; noticeable on snow as spattered stains and melting. Caches: Heaped or loosened dirt, moss, or turf. Dug-up cache holes are shallow and wide, since foxes seldom bury very small prey except near the den in whelping season. Den: Entrance size varies considerably, as most dens are in natural cavities; snagged hair or a few telltale bone scraps occasionally mark entrance; rarely, conspicuous mounds like those of the Red Fox. Several auxiliary or escape dens nearby. Scat: Small, narrow, roughly cylindrical, usually sharply tapered at one end; darker than Red Fox’s, particularly where wild cherries abound. Tracks: When in straight line, similar to those of a very large domestic cat, except that 4 nonretractile claws may show. Sharper than those of Red Fox, but often smaller with larger toes. Foreprint about 1 1/2″(37 mm) long; hindprints as long, slightly narrower. Hind heel pad may leave only a round dot if side portions fail to print. Fox digs in when running, leaving claw marks even in hard ground, where pads do not print.
Habitat: Varied; more often in wooded and brushy habitats than Red Fox.
Range: Throughout East U.S. east from East North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma; in West, West Oregon, California, South Nevada, South Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and most of Texas.
Breeding: Mates January-April; 1 litter of 1-7 young born March-May; gestation 53 days.
Discussion: Although active primarily at twilight and at night, the Gray Fox is sometimes seen foraging by day in brush, thick foliage, or timber. The only American canid with true climbing ability, it occasionally forages in trees and often takes refuge in them, especially in leaning or thickly branched ones. The Gray Fox feeds heavily on cottontail rabbits, mice, voles, other small mammals, birds, insects, and much plant material, including corn, apples, persimmons, nuts, cherries, grapes, pokeweed fruit, grass, and blackberries. Grasshoppers and crickets are often a very important part of the diet in late summer and autumn. Favored den sites include woodlands and spaces among boulders on the slopes of rocky ridges. This fox digs if necessary, and it sometimes enlarges a Woodchuck burrow, but it prefers to den in clefts, small caves, rock piles, hollow logs, and hollow trees, especially oaks. Occupied in the mating season, dens are seldom used the rest of the year. The male Gray Fox helps tend the young, but does not den with them. The young are weaned at three months and hunt for themselves at four months, when they weigh about 7 pounds (3.2 kg). This fox growls, barks, or yaps, but is less vocal than the Red Fox. Other than humans, who shoot, trap, and run over Gray Foxes, this species has few enemies. Bobcats, where abundant, and domestic dogs may kill a few. Rabies and distemper are important diseases.