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A medium-sized member of the dog family, the gray fox is 31-45 inches long (exclusing tail) and weighs 7-11 pounds, with individuals at higher elevations slightly larger than their low elevation counterparts; males are slightly larger than females.
The top of the head, back, sides, and rest of the tail are gray with the belly, chest, legs and sides of the face being reddish brown. The cheeks, muzzle and throat are white. The tail makes up approximately one-third of the total body length and has a distinct black stripe along the dorsal surface and a black tip. There is also a thick black stripe from the inside corner of each eye, down each side of the muzzle to the mouth.
The gray fox has pointed ears, a pointed muzzle, relatively short legs, and long hooked claws.
Distribution and Habitat
The gray fox ranges from southern Canada to Venezuela and Columbia, excluding portions of the Great Plains and mountainous regions of the northwestern United States and the eastern coast of Central America.
As the only canid capable of climbing trees, the gray fox can take full advantage of forested areas. The preferred habitat is deciduous forest interspersed with brushy, woodland areas, but many populations thrive where woodlands and farmlands meet. Proximity to water is a key feature of preferred habitat as well.
Gray foxes are typically monogamous, although in rare cases polygamy and polyandry occur. The breeding season varies geographically, peaking in February in the south and in March in the north.
If not using a hollow tree, the vixen may dig her birthing den into soil or enlarge the burrow of another animal. This den may be as much as 75 feet long and can have 10 or more exits. There are also numerous side chambers used for food storage and for the transfer of young, once a chamber becomes too soiled to inhabit. Three to seven dark brown kits are born after a gestation period of about 51 days. They are born blind and remain so for about 10 days.The young venture out of the den after about 5 weeks, are usually weaned by 10 weeks, and can hunt on their own at about four months. The father provides food for the entire family during this period. Kits depend on their parents for defense until about 10 months old, at which point they become sexually mature and disperse.
Small vertebrates (cottontails, mice, cotton rats, etc.) form the majority of the gray fox's diet, with fruit and invertebrates also being important. When available, gray foxes may also feed on carrion. When gray foxes accumulate an excess amount of food, they cache it by digging a hole with their forepaws and burying it.
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This page was last updated on December 30, 2018.