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A shy creature, the gray fox spends the day resting in its hideaways it is often called the tree fox because of its habit of climbing trees to rest, feed, or hide from predators. The gray fox spends its day hiding in tree hollows, among rocks, or in dense undergrowth, emerging only at night to feed. It lives throughout the United States but can also be found in southern Canada and northern South America.
Special Adaptations: The same size as the red fox, the gray fox has shorter legs that help it to climb. They gray fox's ability to grip round branches with its forelegs like a cat also helps it climb trees. It pushes up with the back legs, using its long back claws like mountain climbing irons. In the trees, the gray fox leaps from branch to branch with great agility. It has food night vision and hearing. On the ground it is slower than the red fox.
Habits: The shy gray fox hides at the slightest disturbance. Its calls are often confused with those of its neighbor the coyote. It generally lives alone, but some males and females pair for life. In some areas groups of one dog (male) and three or four vixens (females) form. The gray fox marks its well defined territory with urine or with feces that are coated with scent expelled from the anal gland. This scent marking serves as a warning to other foxes to stay out of the territory. The gray fox also uses its call to communicate with other gray foxes. The gray fox often rests in the trees during the day.
Breeding: The gray fox mates nosily early in the year, its cubs are born in a well hidden den 60 to 63 days later. Covered with black fur and weighting three ounces, the blind and helpless cubs rely on their parents the first few days. Just before giving birth, the vixen keeps the dog fox out of the den, but she lets him bring food when the cubs are born. The mother weans the cubs at six weeks and the male brings back food for the entire family. The family remains together for five months, during which time the cubs are taught to hunt by their mother. Then they leave the den to find their own territories. Four week old pus venture out of a den in a fallen tree.
Food & Hunting: The gray fox's auburn tinged coat, with its black band down its back and tail, camouflage to surprise prey rather than chase it. compared to many other foxes, the gray fox has a more varied diet and eats more vegetation. Its eats wild cherries and grapes, which it reaches by jumping from branch to branch to find ripe bunches. (see special adaptations above).
The gray fox is also a predator and hunts alone at night for mice, small rodents, eggs and birds, squirrels are also a favorite. When food is abundant, it stores extra food in different spots throughout its range, remembering the locations so that it can return to eat from its stash at some letter time. When their ranges overlap with that of the gray fox, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, and lynx prey on the gray fox. Still, many more die in traps sat around farmlands.
Sizes: 2 -21/2 ft.
Length: 4 to 12 in.
Weight: 5 to 15 lbs.
Sexual Maturity: About 1 year
Mating Season: January to February
Gestation: 60 to 63 days
No. of young: 2 to 7 cubs, average litter 3 to 4.
Habit: Mostly solitary
Call: Barks, yaps, and screeches, similar to coyote.
Diet: Mostly fruit and vegetation. Also mice, birds, and eggs,
Lifespan: About 6 years, 12 in captivity
Related Species: The island gray fox, vulpes
littoralis, is smaller and lives on islands off the California coast.
Distribution: Central United States extending north to Ontario, Canada and south to Northern Venezuela.
Conservation: Nearly 270,000 gray foxes were killed for their fur in the 1977 through 78 season, but the animal remains widespread. Farmers trap and shoot them when they become pests.
Did You Know?
A gray fox needs to eat less than four percent of its Dolby weight in food every day to stay healthy.
The 21 species of fox range from the small fence, with a head and body length of 7 to 12 inches, to the large South American colpeo, measuring from two to four feet.
The desert living fence fox has the longest ears of any fox. It can hear another animal a mile away.
Wary of humans, gray foxes living in and around cities are seldom sighted.
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