The Elusive Grey Fox, or Gray Fox

When you get into the world of an entire family such as that of the Canidae , you tend to find that when you get into the smaller species, the examples of such become a lot less dog like, and very different from what you had in mind due to your frame of reference. In fact, foxes are not canines of the classification of wolves, coyotes, and dogs at all, but do have their own classification or tribe, and the tribe of the family in which the foxes fall is that of the Vulpini.

Before I go further with anything here I should take a moment to explain just what in the world the difference could be between a gray fox and a grey fox, there is absolutely no difference at all. I just keep my browsers set to The Queen's English, and I do this because it probably fools people into thinking that I'm much smarter than I actually am. A grey fox, is indeed a gray fox.

Though these grey foxes can be found from Southern Canada all the way south into South America, the only ones that I've ever seen were at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. I'd have had a picture to share, but Mr. Gray Fox of the Caldwell Zoo...shared little of the kind of interest in posing for the camera as did the super fine African leopard that I admired so much. Had I taken a picture of the fox, I'd only have some pointed fuzzy ears to show you. I think he or she was protesting the rations or the lack of privacy.

Urocyon cinereoargenteus - The Grey Fox


Biological Traits, and Climbing Trees!

I don't know about you, but the above photograph of the grey fox looks to me like something some mad scientist created by fusing some kind of cat and a coyote's DNA. If you aren't into the idea of God, then you must surely recognize that there are many observable laws guiding the universe, and the way things happen in nature. Then, beyond the observable laws that a materialist philosopher, and the most idiotic of the atheist that I know of, Richard Dawkins, even surely agrees to exists - there is chaos theory, and the quantum theory that blows all the other notions to bits. To me, these laws, and the further laws that obliterate them, those are just some of the distinctions of what makes God omniscient and so indescribable that he can neither be proved nor disproved, and is ever on the minds of every last one of us, in praise, wonder, or opposition and derision.

Nevertheless, the gray fox can climb trees. I'll state that again in case you missed it, this little coyote looking thing can climb a tree like a cat. Biology and the natural world are filled with such wonders and pleasure that nobody can even begin to grasp the whole of it, even those who devote their entire lives to it - and it is just a small part of a seemingly insignificant planet in an infinite and expanding multiverse.

Why do gray foxes climb trees? Well, they climb trees to get away from things like coyotes and domestic dogs. They also sometimes feed on things in trees, but this is primarily vegetation, as gray foxes aren't so nimble that they can hunt in trees. Getting out of a climbed tree, just like for anything else, is a bit more of a troublesome issue than is climbing the tree in the first place. Gray foxes will either descend slowly limb by limb, or just scoot backwards down the trunk the way that a domestic cat would do. Please don't call the fire department or the police should you see a gray fox that appears to be stuck up one of your trees. I'd imagine you'd get a reputation with the public servants as a nuisance yourself for such shenanigans, and besides, you should be thinking instead of finding your good digital camera, so that you can email me a picture for updating this hubpage instead.

The Raccoon Dog, The Only Other Canid Able To Climb Trees | Source

A Red Fox | Source

My Gray Fox Story - The One I Never Saw

I've got no grey or gray fox story to tell here from my cannon of human hallucinations, misinterpreted experiences, and over and under blown sense's of self that are sometimes referred to as my life; so I'll give you, dearest reader, a brief interlude containing what I do have.

I've got a story about a gray fox that I never saw, but was really keen to see, having never and still not laid eyes upon one in the wild. Heck, for all that I know the one's I've seen in zoos are just cats or coyotes raised on Monsanto GMO and hormone affected foods. I've no proof otherwise - just a lot of conjecture concerning these so called gray or grey foxes.

There's an elementary school Southeast of Dallas, but still a part of the Dallas Public School District called Kleberg Elementary School, and it's in a semi wooded area, has lots of land belonging to the school that isn't being used, and was supposedly a home in the early mornings for visible gray foxes, but the ones that were present the several and recurring mornings of the years when I worked for the school district where foxes are too smart to play - were of the invisible gray fox variety, and I could find you some pictures of the invisible gray foxes if you'd like - I'd not have anyone think I told tales that one wouldn't tell in church, you know.


What Do Gray Foxes Eat?

Gray foxes are omnivorous critters that are solitary hunters. The gray foxes of the world don't hunt in packs like wolves or coyotes, they are more cat like in their hunting habits, and hunt totally alone as do bobcats, jaguars, and mountain lions. Basically, when it comes to gray fox cuisine, what we're looking at here is a creature that loves to eat those rascally rabbits more than anything else at all. Eastern cottontail rabbits, whether their name happens to be Peter cottontail, or not, are just fine for gray foxes. Rabbits named Jack, or jack rabbits taste just fine to the grey foxes, as do brush rabbits too.That's not the extent of it, however, these foxes also enjoy eating birds, voles, shrews, fruits, and sometimes vegetation too. In fact, gray foxes are more fond of vegetation than are red foxes.

Gray Fox Kits | Source

Monogamous Gray Foxes, and Gray Fox Kits

Gray foxes are monogamous as are gray wolves. If you don't know, then let me help you out here, gray foxes mate for life, and they don't behave like Newt Gingrich in any way, shape, or fashion. They're serious about their reproduction and mating, and they make no bones about it, weird puns intended.

Gray foxes are seasonal specific breeders, but the months in which they breed are varied due to geography and the climate involved in their locations. In states like Michigan foxes breed later in the year than they will do in Texas, and other warmer states, where they tend to breed a month or so earlier in the late Winter or early Spring. Around fifty three days after breeding, a mother gray fox will give birth to between one and seven itty bitty gray fox kits, three months later the kits are basically autonomous, but remain with their family until autumn, then they disperse out into the world on their own.

There is very little in the way of sexual dimorphism in gray foxes. What does that mean? It's really simple, it's just fancy words - sexual dimorphism describes the difference in sizes of adults of a species in regards to the males and females. In gray foxes with their very little sexual dimorphism - all that is meant is that the adult males and adult females are pretty much the same size and weight.

Very Cool Video Concerning Gray Foxes.

Wikipedia's Map For the California Channel Island Foxes, The Unique Species, and Distribution.


Gray Foxes, Red Foxes, and The California Channel Island Foxes.

Now we all know or should know that various and sundry animals sometimes have colourations that are contrary to their names. Red wolves look sort of grey sometimes, and black bears can be very brown, so forth and so on. Mostly though, red foxes are very red and gray foxes are very gray (or grey). The distinguishing characteristics are that gray foxes pretty much always have a very black tipped tail, and red foxes always have some very black "sox" or colouration on their legs, and generally it's all four of them.

There are some other distinguishing features of gray foxes, but those have to do with things that you'd not see on a living gray fox, but rather, are distinguishing characteristics of grey foxes in their bones. For that reason, I'm not going to bother with that here, as my target audience is definitely not a biologist. I'd not wish to be put to peer review for my articles that are meant to be informing and entertaining for a much wider audience.

What is totally unavoidable for persons discussing biology on the web is the subject of evolution. I tend to just "go with it," but I do that more to avoid controversy than anything else, and I always love to show how there are more often than not - vast amounts of controversy within evolutionary biology, and I do mean between biologist that are total evolutionists.

Despite all of that, on the subject of foxes, and the independent yet unavoidable subject of evolution - landing squarely on the side of evolutionary biologists everywhere as seemingly proof of their claims is the six species of California Channel Island Foxes, remote and strange critters that have definitely seemed to have evolved in some very strange ways that are quite different from their cousins, the gray foxes of the Americas. The dwarfish Channel Island Foxes are absolutely fascinating, and deserve a lot of attention totally separate from what I'll provide here, but three cheers for the naturalist of California for the tremendous job they've done towards protecting these VERY fragile creatures from extinction.

So far as one last notion concerning evolutionary biology, and despite the fact that I absolutely loath Richard Dawkins in more ways than I could even conceive of consciously, have a look below at the African Bat Eared Fox, the other closest relative to the gray foxes besides the raccoon dog. Alas, the African bat eared fox can not climb trees, like another person I don't much care for once sang, .you can't always get what you want, but if you try some times, you might find, you get what you need.

The Bat Eared Fox Of Kenya, a Relative Of The Gray Fox


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Comments 18 comments

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Very interesting and some cool pictures. Cute raccoon dog.Clever trick, that grey and gray thing. Voted up and Awesome! Great job!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thanks very much rebeccamealey!!! I'd never heard of the raccoon dog until I was researching for this hub - but I did know that grey foxes could climb trees.

So far as pictures - it would be impossible for me to come up with my own photos for all the animals I wish to write about, and they're a major part of the visual attraction of a page.

One doesn't make money by writing about's just something I do for pleasure, really.

Glad you enjoyed it!!!

craftybegonia profile image

craftybegonia 4 years ago from Southwestern, United States

Very nice hub. Beautiful animal. Voted up!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thanks craftybegonia!!! They're awfully interesting!

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Hi Wesman, very interesting hub on gray foxes. How common are they in the US? Are there lots of them or are they on the endangered list? Over here in the UK we only have red foxes, and they have made themselves right at home in urban areas, and I have quite often seen one streaking across the road when walking home at night. Are the red foxes indigenous to the US, or were they introduced from Europe?

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

Great hub there Wesman. Why are Grey Foxes so rare? Over here you can't walk down the street in the evening without seeing loads of red foxes. They are just everywhere.

grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

Well done Wesman. I learned a lot from your Hub. We had a family of red foxes living in a sluice pipe at the bottom of our steep driveway several years ago. I was never able to sneak up on them long enough to get a picture. I was not aware that they climbed trees. And now I know why there are no rabbits around here any more! Nice video and pictures as well. Voted Up, Interesting and Awesome!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

CMHypno - they aren't endangered at all, there's not any kind of fox hunting tradition here in the US as in the UK, but of course there are nuts that shoot things that they've no intention of eating...which never ceases to infuriate me.

The foxes are more like bobcats - not endangered at all, but extremely adept at staying far out of sight! These are critters with outstanding senses, and they are pretty small too, and all of that works to their advantage. I've heard some very strange sounding calls in the night around here...sounds that weren't cat like, and weren't coyotes, and so I wonder if they weren't the sounds of either red or gray foxes!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey Chris!!!! And I'd so love to visit your part of this world so that I could also see some of those!

They're not "rare" just "elusive." You just don't see them, as they're wise and have great senses. They're not nearly so common as coyotes, but every bit as good (or better) at concealment.

So while we hear coyotes around here most every night and still hardly ever see one....the foxes are less common, smaller, can climb trees....and I don't know anyone that sees them around. They're here, just very wary and wise!

Also, if someone did see a full grown one, they might then think that they'd seen a coyote pup were they not so keen on the differences.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thanks very much grandmapearl!!!!!!!!!!!!

I very much wish that you'd been able to snap that photo!!!!!!!!! I sure wish I could get lots more such photos myself, and you've thankfully reminded me to get out my new digital camera and see what I can do with it!!!

I do tons of learning when creating these things - I'd not mislead you to thinking that it wasn't that way!!!! I just research and think of how I can present things in a more entertaining way, really!

alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

What's Mick Jagger done to get dragged into this? Seriously, though, nice piece on 'gray' foxes. We've just got the usual red ones - some have made their way into Central London, I saw one of them one night near where I worked at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office in EC1, slinking off somewhere darker! Where I live some of my wife's pets have been snatched from their cages. One of her rabbits escaped her clutches when she tried to put it back into its cage and a fox got that as well! Most of the 'critters' round here are mangy, scruffy looking efforts - some looking pretty grotty! - that live on scraps when they can't get at the pets, and live in the nearby cemetery or on what used to be marshland.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

alancaster149 - I've no rational explanation!!!! Heaven only knows what gets into me sometimes!!!!


Oh and I'd love to see those foxes. I think they must just be everywhere in the United Kingdom....sort of like coyotes are around here.

I'm sure you all have totally different species over there, but these over here certainly get most their meals at the expense of rabbits, so it's not surprising that yours do too!

I'd imagine an ancient cemetery would be just the ideal spot for them! Gosh I'd love to see that!

alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

The local cemeteries only go back to the mid-19th Century. No they're just the usual common-or-garden country foxes that spread out after the ban on hunting with dogs in the early years of the previous government. Although in the 19th century one of their lordships hunted the creatures down so much he ran out of them and imported them from eastern Europe, of all regions! (Dozy b****r couldn't have asked his 'next-door neighbours for a few breeding pairs to get them going again, could he)? Maybe it was the descendants of the eastern Euro-foxes that threw the English ones out from the neighbouring counties. Around the same time some fool aristocrat brought over grey squirrels from the USA and nearly wiped out the red squirrel population in the southern half of the country. It's called meddling. We've got some pumas going about in the midlands and south-west (the Beast of Dartmoor is one), as well, and Muntjac deer all across southern England. Doubtless some twit will think of bringing in gray foxes and confound everybody!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

"Meddling" is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Holy smoke, you know - I've heard tale of the pumas over there, and I can't imagine WHY someone would purposefully import and release those things in the U.K.!!!

As wild as importing breeding pairs of pumas or "cougars" is though, WTF? Why the hell would anyone bring in American squirrels?

There are LOTS of diff American squirrels though, the one's so unwisely imported to the U.K. might not be the ones that are everywhere here in Texas. Ours here are very brown, but up around other places they tend to often be gray - and an obviously different species.

Deer populations are to where they are deadly to the plant life of some ecosystems over here, and it's precisely because wolves have been so forever the victim of human stupidity!

alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

The grey squirrels brought in are nearly twice the size of the native reds. As squirrels can't swim they haven't reached the Isle of Wight yet, but maybe one day they'll stow away on board a ferry - so many people here think they're cute, and feed them in the parks in London. So if they saw them on the ferry they'd just smile and feed the things. If you don't give them any tidbits, they'll raid your pockets if you stand still long enough! As to the puma population, they were probably bought from illegal animal importers and shooed out when they got too big. Like Ninja turtles in the New York sewers, or that giant crocodile in the film, they just grew like Topsy!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

LOL! In the Everglades around Florida there's a massive python problem, or maybe it's Boa Constrictors ...I forget. The things were all from pet stores, and of course....bought and then turned loose by idiots, and now they eat everything to where even the bobcats and coyotes are starving!!!

So while the U.K. has some folks breaking animal laws and such, in the US - we've just idiots and ....not enough law for animal ownership. In my state of Texas there are now more Tigers than there are in all of Asia!!!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for an entertaining and informative hub, Wesman. I enjoyed seeing the photos of the other canids as well as those of the grey foxes. I think that the whole Canidae family is very interesting!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

It's probably my favourite Family of mammals.

Of course I like cats too. It's about bass fishing season for stream fishing here in Texas, so I imagine the next few animal hubs I do will be about fish, which will give me an opportunity to learn new things, but of course I'm always learning when creating something like this. That's the best part of doing it other than seeing when someone else enjoyed whatever I put together!

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