Gray Fox Fact Sheet
|Copyright © 1997
|Habitat: Deciduous woodlands,
thickets and swampy areas.
Weight: Ranges from 7 to 14 pounds, 10 to 11 pounds is average.
||Length: 32 to 45 inches.
Sexes about equal in size.
Food: Rabbits, mice, voles, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, fruits,
insects, birds and eggs, carrion, corn, amphibians and reptiles.
Identification: Foxes have pointed ears, an elongated
snout (shorter and more cat-like in appearance in the gray fox than the red fox) and a
long, bushy tail which is carried horizontally. The gray fox is somewhat stout and has
shorter legs than the red fox. Its coat is mostly grizzled-gray. The sides of the neck,
back of the ears, a band across the chest, the inner and back surfaces of the legs, the
feet, the sides of the belly and the under surface of the tail are all reddish-brown. The
cheeks, throat, inner ears and most of the underside are white. The upper part of the
tail, including the tip, is black.
Range: The gray fox occurs from extreme southern Canada
throughout the United States, except in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and most of Washington. It
ranges into Mexico and Central America.
Reproduction: Foxes breed from January through March
with the gray fox tending to breed two to four weeks later than the red fox. After an
average gestation period of 53 days, the female fox gives birth to a litter averaging four
or five pups. The gray fox usually does not use an underground den but, instead, dens in
dense brush, cavities in stumps and trees, rock crevices or under out-buildings such as
barns and sheds. Most foxes have more than one den and will readily move their young if
disturbed. The pups stay in the den until about four to five weeks of age, after which
they emerge and begin to play outside the den entrance. Both adults care for the young by
bringing food and guarding the den site. At about 12 weeks of age, the pups are weaned and
join the adults on hunting forays, learning to catch food for themselves. In the fall, the
young disperse from the family unit and will usually breed the first spring after they are
History in Connecticut: In the middle 1700s,
Connecticut was home to both native gray and red foxes. The red fox was an inhabitant of
mixed forest and open areas while the gray fox inhabited more dense woodlands. In the
1750s, the European red fox was introduced into the eastern coastal areas of the United
States and likely interbred with the native red fox to produce a hybrid (mix) of both
types of fox. The hybrid fox is now considered to be the only red fox type in Connecticut.
With the abandonment of farmland during the 1800s and subsequent regrowth of woodlands,
the gray fox population has increased during the past 100 years.
Interesting Facts: Gray foxes are not observed as
frequently as red foxes due to their reclusive nature and more nocturnal habits. Gray
foxes tend to be active from the late evening hours until dawn. They will readily climb
trees, jumping from branch to branch while hunting or for protection.
In Connecticut, the normal home range for a fox is about two to four
square miles, but it may vary depending on the abundance of food.
The gray fox has a voice similar to the red fox, but barks or yaps less
often than the red fox and its voice is louder.
Hunting and trapping can regulate fox populations while providing
recreational opportunities for hunters and trappers. Nationally, millions of dollars are
generated annually from fox pelt harvests; the silky, dense fur of the red fox is more
valued than the fur of the gray fox, which is coarse and thin. In addition to their value
as a furbearer, foxes are important predators of prolific prey species like mice and
Adult foxes have few predators; feral dogs and coyotes likely will not
tolerate foxes within their territories. The relationship between gray foxes and coyotes
has not been well studied.
Management of Problem Foxes: Problems associated with
foxes include depredation on domestic animals, perceptions of danger to humans (healthy
foxes pose virtually no danger to humans) and their potential to carry disease organisms.
Foxes will prey on small livestock such as ducks, chickens, rabbits and young lambs, but
generally do not bother larger livestock. Cats may also be preyed on. Foxes often carry
their prey to a secluded area or their den where it is eaten by the adults and young.
Livestock can be protected from foxes by secure pens, coops or fencing.
Most predation occurs at night so it is particularly important to provide protection at
that time. Foxes will dig or squeeze under poorly maintained fences and may climb over
small fences. Some electric fence designs can provide good protection. Outdoor dogs may
also keep foxes away. Potential food sources, such as pet food, meat scraps in compost
piles, and fruit below fruit trees should be eliminated. Dead livestock should be properly
discarded to avoid attracting foxes into the proximity of remaining livestock. Removing
foxes through trapping or shooting is only recommended during designated seasons or in
situations where individual foxes show a pattern of preying on livestock.
Many of the methods used to protect livestock can also be used to
protect pets. Pets are often easier to protect because they can be kept indoors at night
and can be supervised outdoors by their owners. Human presence is often a deterrent to
foxes. Foxes that travel into residential yards should be harassed or scared with loud
noises to prevent them from becoming habituated. During the spring, disturbing a den site
physically or with unnatural odors such as moth balls, may prompt foxes to move to an
alternative den which may be farther from yards and houses.
Foxes can carry the organisms responsible for several contagious
diseases such as mange, distemper (gray foxes being highly susceptible) and rabies. The
raccoon rabies strain is the only terrestrial strain of rabies in Connecticut. Raccoons
are the primary carrier but foxes can also be infected. Foxes are the primary carrier for
other strains of rabies that occur in other geographic regions. Animals that appear sick
or that are acting abnormally should be avoided. The following symptoms may indicate the
presence of rabies or other neurological diseases in mammals: unprovoked aggression,
impaired movement, paralysis or lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and
disorientation. Local animal control officers, police, or the Department of Environmental
Protection should be contacted if assistance is needed with a diseased animal.
The Technical Assistance
Informational Series is 75 percent funded by Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration -
Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Program. The P-R Program provides funding through an excise tax on
the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. The remaining 25 percent
of the funding is matched by the Connecticut Wildlife Division. (rev. 12/99)