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Gray Fox

Overview

The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) is one of the two fox species in Ohio and one of four in North America. The state's other fox is the red fox. The Arctic and swift foxes are the other species found in North America. North American foxes inhabit a wide range of habitats from deserts to forests to snow covered tundras. This isn't completely surprising as the gray and other foxes are members of the same family of adaptable animals that includes the wolves, coyote, and domestic dog-- Canidae.

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Description

The gray fox's coat color is a salt and pepper gray. A black stripe runs from the base of the tail and ends in a black tip. Another black stripe crosses its face from the nose to the eye and then to the side of the head. Like the red fox its cheek and throat area are white and this color extends on the gray fox to the lower jaw. There is a reddish patch on the side of its head below its ear. Its belly is white and a reddish band separates it from the gray sides. The legs and back of the ears are an orange color while the feet are gray.

Reproduction

Gray foxes are monogamous, meaning they only have one mate. Peak breeding activity occurs during February-March. Gestation lasts about 53 days and young are born April-May. Litters usually consist of 4 or 5 kits. Gray foxes have one litter per year. While the female is nursing her offspring, the male will bring her food. He continues in this role until the young are about three months old and can go with their parents on hunting trips where they learn a basic survival skill. By fall of the same year, the family unit breaks up; the young are mature enough to go out on their own. Young gray foxes disperse anywhere from 1 to 10 miles from their home den to establish their own home ranges or territories.

Habitat & Behavior

As the state was settled and cleared, gray fox habitat declined and red fox habitat expanded. Wooded areas and partially open brush land with little human presence are the preferred habitat for gray foxes in Ohio.

Gray foxes are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active at night, feeding and moving from place to place. When pressured it will climb a tree or emit an odor from its anal glands. The gray fox will also climb a tree to sun itself. It has a distinctive bark that is usually repeated four or five times in a row. It will also squeal or growl. Typical foods include mice, rats, rabbits, and other small mammal, as well as birds, insects, eggs, fruits, and acorns. Gray foxes have a reputation as excellent mousers.