Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
Gray foxes are medium-sized canids. Their pelt is mostly gray, but they have reddish-brown fur around their neck, ears and legs, with a white chest and belly. They have a faint black dorsal stripe down their backs and a distinctive bushy, black-tipped tail. A gray fox is smaller than a red fox, with shorter legs and smaller feet. Unlike many other canid species, they have retractable claws. Gray foxes are primarily nocturnal, and are most likely to be seen at dusk or during the night.
Gray foxes prefer deciduous forests, but will also inhabit mixed forests and brushy woodlands. They prefer to inhabit areas that are close to a water source. Their range spans most of the continental United States.
Gray foxes are omnivorous. They will hunt small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, and will eat carrion if presented with the opportunity. Much of their diet consists of rabbits, mice, and voles. They will also consume bird eggs and insects, especially grasshoppers and butterflies. In addition, gray foxes feed on fruit and nuts. Similarly to red foxes, gray foxes store excess food in caches for later use.
Gray foxes are solitary, and only socialize during mating season and while rearing pups. These foxes are monogamous and have one litter of pups per year. While the female prepares the den site, gives birth, and nurses the pups, her mate will hunt for her. Once the pups are weaned at about three weeks old, both the male and the female will hunt and bring food back to the den. The parents will teach the pups to hunt when they are between three and four months old. By 10 months, the pups are fully mature and ready to disperse. In the wild, gray foxes usually live to be about 7 years old.
Fun Fact: Gray foxes are the only canid species that can climb trees. They climb trees to hunt and to escape predation, and will occasionally construct dens in hollow trees.