Gray Fox: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Because the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) frequently has quite a lot of red hair, it may be confused with the red fox, and is sometimes referred to as a "red-sided gray". The adult gray fox may weigh from 7 to 13 pounds and measure up to 40 inches including a 12 inch tail. The female is slightly smaller than the male. The hair along the middle of the back and tail is tipped in black and has the appearance of a black mane. The face, sides, back and tail are gray, while the under parts are white and the sides of the neck and underside of the tail are a rusty-yellow color.
The gray fox is widespread across most of the United States except the northern plains and Rockies. While found throughout Florida, it is much more abundant in the northern sections. Normally found in wooded areas, it prefers to live in more inaccessible cover.
The gray fox is essentially a nocturnal animal, and while seldom recognized, it has ayapping bark. The gray fox — sometimes referred to as the "tree fox" — can scramble up a tree quickly, and is one of the few members of the dog family capable of climbing. To climb, they use their front legs to hug tree trunks while pushing up with their hind legs. To get back down, gray foxes will either move backwards down vertical tree trunks or run head-first down more slanted trees.
Mating takes place in January, February or March. An average of three to five young (pups) are born after a gestation period of about 63 days. Pups are brownish-black and fully-furred, but blind for the first nine days. They nurse for about two months and stay with their parents until late summer or fall. Both male and female are devoted parents and provide food, care and training to the youngsters. The den site may be hollow logs, gopher holes or hollow trees.
Mice, rats and rabbits are the mainstays of the gray fox's diet, although it will consume almost anything edible. All types of small birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, fruits, berries, insects, and some carrion serve to supplement the diet. The gray fox seldom raids the farmer's hen house, as it prefers to live in wilder, denser brushy cover. While gray fox serve to maintain a balance in the rodent and rabbit populations, they in turn are preyed upon by dogs and bobcats. Young fox may fall prey to the owl, hawk or coyote.
Major factors governing population of gray fox are food and cover. The foxes, both gray and red, are subject to epizootics of rabies.
Image Credit: FWC