Find the best places to hunt Foxes in Canada and discover the Foxes' Physical Description, Range, Habitat, Food Source, Breeding Habits, and Status. 

Provinces with Fox Hunting

Province / Territory

Species

Season

Nunavut

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Season Available 

Northwest Territories

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

 

Yukon

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

 

British Columbia

Red Fox

 

Alberta

Red Fox

Swift Fox

Resident

Saskatchewan

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Swift Fox

 

Manitoba

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Grey Fox

Trapping Only 

Ontario

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Grey Fox

Arctic Fox

Red Fox 

Quebec

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

 Red Fox

New Brunswick

Red Fox

 

Nova Scotia

Red Fox

 

Prince Edward Island

Red Fox

Season Available 

Newfoundland

Arctic Fox

Red Fox

Arctic Fox -Vulpes lagopus

   

Summer Coat

Winter Coat

Arctic Fox in summer Arctic Fox in Winter
 Photo By Drew Avery - Flickr Arctic Fox - Eric Kilby - Flickr 

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox Range Map of Canada

Arctic Fox Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

 

The Arctic fox is sometimes referred to as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox. It is a small fox that is native and commonplace to Canada’s Arctic tundra from the northern tip of Ellesmere Island to the southern tip of James Bay.   

Despite the fact that this mammal lives in a bleak landscape that is full of rocks: and without much vegetation. The Arctic fox populations are in the hundred thousands. The Arctic fox is particularly well adapted to the very cold temperatures of their range, and have secured a position on the tundra is not an easy place to live.

The summer time finds the Arctic Fox living in family groups at the forest edges of the tundra. These groups generally consist of a male, one or two females and their offspring. If there is a second female she does not breed with the male, she is one from last years litter, and is there to help care for this years litter. 

In the winter time, the arctic fox moves around a lot looking for food. It can found on the ice pack at this time of year where its white coat serves as a disguise. If it needs a den now, it will make it in a snow bank.

Description of Arctic Fox:

The Arctic fox has adapted itself for life in one of earth’s sub-zero extremes. With several layers of dense fur, its fur provides outstanding insulation and will not feel the cold until temperatures drop to minus 70 deg C.

The fox has a countercurrent heat exchange system in its paws, where heat from blood in the arteries supplying its paws is transferred to blood returning to the body's core in veins that lie close to these arteries. This helps the fox to maintain a lower temperature in its paws than the core temperature of its body during freezing cold conditions.

In order to have a low surface area to volume ratio, Evolution for this mammal gave it a compact body shape, a short nose, short legs, and short, thick ears. With less of a surface area, less heat escapes from its body in the freezing cold temperatures of the Arctic.

The Arctic foxes is active all year round and does not hibernate during the winter months. They will try to increase their body weight by 50% by building up their fat reserves in the fall of the year. The increased fat gives the fox better insulation during the winter and provides a supply of energy for when food is scarce. There is fur on the underside of its paws in order to help insulate it from the ice and snow and it has a long bushy tail.

The Arctic fox moults twice a year, and can be a dark gray to brown to blue-brown to grey-brown colour in the summer. In the winter, it is may be white or a steely bluish-gray.

The Arctic fox has such acute auditory perception, it can pin point the location of a small animal is moving under the snow. Once the prey has been located, it will jump on it and catch its victim while punching a hole in the snow cover

  • The life expectancy of the Arctic fox in the wild is 3 to 6 years of age.
  • This fox will weigh from 6.5 to 21 lbs (2.9 - 95kg) and female foxes are generally smaller than males.
  • It has a body length that ranges from 18 to 27 in. (46 - 68cm).
  • Its dental formula is: 3.1.4.2 / 3.1.4.3 U 3.1.4.2 - L 3.1.4.3.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Arctic Fox:

The diet of this fox is primarily one of lemmings during the summer. However, in the winter its diet will move towards that of carrion. They are also good scavengers and depending upon the time of year and availability of prey in the area. Arctic hares, ground squirrels, fish, voles, ringed seal pups, some seabirds along with waterfowl and their eggs are included in that list.

In addition to the carrion that it eats, berries, seaweed, insects, and other small invertebrates are also food sources.

The summer time is the time for the Arctic fox to raise its young and it is during this time that this fox hunts the most. With endless daylight on the tundra it will forage 10 to 15 times a night from 4 in the afternoon till 10 or 11 the next morning. It will cover 2.5 to 5.0 Km2 and bring back 3-8 lemmings per hunting trip.

The style of hunting for lemmings varies by the cover that the lemmings are using. Where lemming nests are located in soft mounds of peat the Fox will dig them from their nests. Out on the open tundra where the vegetation is low and sporadic the fox catches a moving lemming with a quick dash and a pounce.

In areas where ground squirrels and voles are plentiful this fox will make them its important source of food. The same when it comes to foxes that live close to a major seabird colony. Here foxes raid the nests of duck, geese, and shorebirds for eggs, flightless young and even adult birds some of which they will store for food in winter. Arctic foxes will sometimes try to take on a Sandhill Crane or goose, but they are rarely successful against such large bird.

Arctic foxes inhabiting coastal areas are likely to be found hunting for small marine animals, fish, and flesh of dead animals along the shorelines.

When the winter arrives, this fox changes its hunting tactics and strategy. Coastal Foxes will venture onto the sea ice, where they frequently follow polar bears and scavenge a bears’ seal kill or search for a seal den from which it can steal a pup.  Carrion is usually obtained by trailing and tracking arctic wolves or polar bears in order to feast on their scraps and arctic foxes distributed themselves to the Arctic’s remotest islands by following the bears across the frozen ice pack.

Despite all these resourceful feeding techniques, the overall population of the Arctic Fox is still very dependant on the lemming. Populations of lemmings go on a 3 to 5 year cycle in North America. When lemming populations are high the survival rate of kits in a fox litter is high and the Arctic Fox population soars. However, when lemming populations drop, the survival rate of fox litters also plummets causing a decline in Arctic Fox numbers. Naturally, these swings in populations will be more dramatic the more the fox is dependant upon the lemming for a food source.

Breeding and Reproduction of Arctic Fox:

Arctic Fox 

Arctic Fox with dinner
Photo By Grid Arendal - Flickr

The Arctic Foxes breeding season is usually in April or May. Courtship of the pair is lengthy and frisky. This playful period will involve much chasing and play-fighting. The female has a gestation period of 51 - 57 days and litters of 5 to 8 pups are born in Late May to early June.

Arctic foxes usually pair for life, and both parents help to rear the pups starting with finding, cleaning out, and possibly digging a new den entrance for raising their young.

Fox dens are quite often built out of traditional previous sites, some of which are 300 years old. With many years in the making it is not uncommon for the den to have as many as 100 entrances, have an intricate system of tunnels that covers 1,200 yd² (1,000 m2).

The criteria for their den, is that it must be in frost-free ground and have good drainage. With that criteria in mind, you will find the dens on raised ground, build along the side or top of an esker, or on the bank of a lake or river with dry, sandy, compactable soil.

The male fox guard the den and begin to hunt for his mate before she gives birth to her whelps. He will then hunt for the family until she has weaned the pups. Once the pups are weaned the pair will collectively hunt for the family.

The pups or whelps come into this world blind, helpless, covered with fur, and weigh about 2 oz. (57 g.). The pups will be weaned in 5 to 6 weeks and the pups will begin to exit the den in 14 to 15 weeks from birth. Dispersal of the fox pups occurs at about 6 months of age.

The rearing of the young is a busy time for the adults in that not only do they have to feed themselves, but, they have also feed a large family that is physically developing quickly. The pair provides 30 lemmings a day for the litter at first; but by the time the pups are ready to leave the den, the pair has to supply 100 lemmings a day. The family as a whole will consume 3,500 to 4,000 lemmings in total during the rearing process.

Status of Arctic Fox in Canada

Red List listed as Least Concern – June 2014.

There are few natural predators of adult Arctic Foxes. Wolves will eat an arctic fox if they can catch it or find it caught in a trap. Red foxes will compete for den sites and hunting territories where ever their ranges overlap with the Arctic Fox. Golden Eagles will pluck young pups from the den site, and grizzly bears along with wolves are able to dig pups and or adult foxes from their den. 

There are four major diseases that affect the Arctic fox. Canine Rabies, Canine Distemper, Canine Parvovirus, and Canine Adenovirus. It is known that the fox is the main host and carrier of the arctic rabies virus. Two of these diseases can be transmitted to humans and the real issue is that contracted foxes become weak and unable to breed. This in turn leads to lower populations of arctic fox. 

In Canada trapping of the Arctic Fox for its pelt provides for an important source of income to northern native people and northern residents alike. With pelts prices at $110 for a single 36 inch pelt, it is easy to see how harvesting the arctic fox can provide a lucrative living to trappers.

There are management tools in place to control the dates of trapping season(s) but, there are no limits  on the number of foxes that may be harvested nor the location of trapping areas.

When all the facts are considered and despite the fore mentioned issues, the population density of the lemming is the ultimate controlling factor for the Arctic Fox.

Red Fox - Vulpes vulpes

 Red Fox Melanistic  Cross Fox
Red Fox  Metanistic Fox  Cross Fox 
 Photo By Robb Hannawacker - Flickr Photo By Bob Jenson - Flickr  Photo By DR. Robert Berdan

 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Red Fox

Red Fox Range Map of Canada

 Red Fox Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca 

With a global territory that covers nearly 70 million km², the Red Fox has the largest range of any member of the dog family. Here in Canada it is distributed across the entire country, with the exception of the northern Arctic islands.

Sly like a fox really does describe this resourceful mammal. With an ability to find food and shelter in almost any natural or rural urban environment, it is right at home almost anywhere.

From the southern edge of Canada’s northern icy tundra to our border with the United States this fox inhabits almost every kind of habitat that you can think of. Scientists believe that there are more red foxes present in North America now than when the Europeans arrived in the 16th century. The supposition behind this belief lies in the fact that the pioneers created additional habitat for the fox by thinning the dense forests and killing many of the wolves that had kept fox numbers down.

A pair of red foxes may occupy a home range of 4 to 8 km2 around a centrally located den site. If the availability of prey becomes restrictive, the pair will hunt separately for the winter, but will meet back up in the late winter or early spring in time for mating season  

Description of Red Fox:

The Red fox is a small member of the canids (dog) family that has a sharp pointed face and ears, an agile and lightly built body. Most people picture a bushy tailed dog like mammal that has a beautiful long reddish-brown fur coat on its body and tail. White fur on it’s’ belly, chest, tail tip, cheeks and leg stocking. The tip of its nose is jet black and black fur runs down its legs and across the top of its ears.

What most don’t know is that not all members of the “Red Fox” species are actually red. There is a melanistic or black phase. This all black fox often has streaks of gray or white-tipped guard hairs that give it a silvery look and for that reason foxes with this streaking are often called a “silver fox”.

With the “cross fox” colour phase all the white markings that you normally expect to see in a Red Fox are missing. Most of those markings will be a black or brownish colour and will also include the shoulders and down its back. This colour phase is common throughout the Rocky Mountains.

It is not uncommon for kits of a litter to be of a different colour phase.

The size of this fox will vary according to sex and geographic local. In general, male foxes are slightly larger than females. And those of the species in the north portion of their range tend to be bigger than those in the south. An adult fox will weigh between 8 to 15 lbs (3.6 - 6.8 kg) and have a length of 35 – 44 ins. (90 - 112 cm,) including its tail that is 13 ¾ to 17 inches (35-43 cm) long. The life span of a wild red fox is 2-5 years of age.

The adapt senses of the Red Fox helps them a lot when foraging for food

  • The Red fox has excellent eyesight to detect the slightest movement of a rabbits’ ear thus giving give away its position.
  • A good sense of smell that is able to detect nests of young rabbits or birds eggs hidden in the long grass. 
  • This fox has acute hearing to pinpoint a rodent in the grass or snow and then jump on it.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Red Fox:

 Red Fox Kits Playing with Dinner

 Kits Playing with Dinner
Photo By Pat Gaines - Flickr 

Red Foxes hunt primarily during the night and early in the morning. They also have a poor reputation and have been labels as “chicken thieves”. It is a fact that they will raid a chicken coupe but they eat large numbers of crop-destroying small vermin and insects. This benefit outweighs the odd chicken lost.

This mammal has a diet that consists mostly of other small mammals. Voles, mice, lemmings, squirrels, hares and rabbits are the stables of their diet but they will also consume a wide range of other foods, including vegetation.

They have a seasonal diet where they consume small mammals in fall and winter and in the spring they will also target nesting waterfowl to dine on eggs and chicks of colonies of nesting seabirds. In the summer you may find them dining on insects and berries.


Other unexpected sources of food are lake trout that they catch by jumping from the shore onto schooling fish in shallow water. Seal pups, beaver, reptiles, fruits of all sorts, and garbage are also on that short list. They are known to cache surplus food for later consumption, but other animals often discover and beat them to it first.

Breeding and Reproduction of Red Fox:

Males are often referred to as Dog Foxes while females are called Vixens. The sexual organs of dogs and vixens kick into gear in December and a short 6 day estrous cycles of the Vixen occurs in December-January in the south, January-February in the central regions, and February-April in the northern territories. Males and females may mate with more than one individual during this time period, copulation lasts about 15-20 minutes, and implantation of the embryo to the uterus wall takes only 10 to 14 days and gestation lasts for 51-53 days.

Once the vixen is pregnant, the vixen and dog will establish a maternal den and line it with dry debris like grass or leaves. The object is to insulate the cubs from the earths’ moisture and cold; only the vixen and her soon to be young will reside in the den from now till the litter is about 2 weeks old. The dens are usually dug in the earth from an abandoned burrow of another mammal like that of a woodchuck. But they could also be made in an old cave, under a hollow log, under a building structure, or in the side of a sand bank. More than one access point to the den may be constructed to facilitate an escape route from danger. Dens often face south, provide a good overview of the landscape from the main entrance, and are located in dry, sandy soil. It is not uncommon for a pair of foxes to reuse an old den if it has been left undisturbed and a pair of foxes may establish a secondary den to which they will move the pups when / if they are threatened.  When searching for a den site, look on top of small knolls in a field, along a stream bank, a hedge, or a fence row.

Female foxes are very caring of their pups before their eyes are open and during this period they will not let the dog fox enter the maternal den. The dog starts to provide food for the vixen from the time she enters the den till about 2-3 weeks after the pups are born. In March or April, the pups are born blue eyed, blind, deaf, toothless, and have a dark brown fluffy fur.  The size of the litter size varies from 1-10 pups, but averages 5. The pups weigh 2.0 – 3.9 oz. (56 – 110 g) at birth, will measure 5.7 in. (14.5 cm.) in body length and have a 3.0 in. (7.5 cm) long tail. The pups will also have short legs; have a large head and a broad chest.

The fox pups are unable to maintain their internal core temperature for the first 2-3 weeks, for this reason the vixen must remain with them in the den. The pups begin to develop teeth at 3-4 days, open their eyes and develop ear canals at 13-14 days, at which point in time the male will relieve the female so she too may hunt. The colour of the pups’ fur changes at 3 weeks and the black eye streak appears now. At 4 weeks, the red and white patches on their face forms, the ears become erect, and their nose lengthens. The pups’ eyes will change from blue to amber around 4-5 weeks old.

The weaning process takes about one month. The process of weaning is one where the parents bring back prey to the cubs at the den entrance so that they can play with it, smell it, and learn to eat it.

For two months both parents hunt for themselves and feed the cubs at the den site. Thus training the pups, in the art of hunting by letting the pups stalk mice. The parents watch the pups practise hunting and when they are capable of feeding themselves. The pups are mature enough to leave the den site to hunt on their own.

At 8 weeks old, they develop their shiny guard hairs and by the time they are 3–4 months old the kits will be long-legged, narrow-chested and have developed their muscles. Adult proportions are achieved around 6–7 months and by 9-10 months old some vixens might reach sexual maturity and rear their first litter at one year of age.

If at any point the vixen dies before the kits are able to fend for themselves, the dog will takes over the role as their caregiver.

These new foxes will widely disperse in the fall to seek their own territory. These foxes will use thickets and heavy bush for bedding down and cover over their first winter. If they establish a territory and are successful in surviving their first winter the yearling foxes may pair up and breed the following spring.

If the hunting for prey becomes difficult, established pairs of foxes may separate over the winter, but they will rejoin again to mate and den up.

Status of Red Fox in Canada

The Red Fox is listed as a species of least concern (2016) on the Red List.

The pelt of species does not have as much value as the arctic fox. However the farming and hunting communities see this mammal as a pest and kill it in order to reduce the competition for livestock and wild game between themselves and the fox.

Natural predators of the Red Fox will come from mammals like the Bobcats, Lynx, Cougar, Wolves, coyotes, and dogs. There may also be some but rare occurrences of large owls and eagles taking young around den sites.

Encroachment of habitat from coyotes is a newer threat in that the coyotes through range expansion in the notable provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia are taking the habitat of the red fox.

Diseases that foxes in general contract are rabies, fox tapeworm, and mange. Human contact with rabies can be lethal if left untreated. Fox tapeworm is not a problem to humans but your hunting dog should be protected. Finally mange can be contracted by humans but it cannot last. You will simply develop a rash that lasts for a few weeks and remember that your pets are also susceptible to this virus.

Swift Fox - Vulpes velox

 Swift Fox

Swift Fox 
Photo By USFWS Mountain Prairie - Flickr 

Range - Distribution and Habitat of Swift Fox

Swift Fox Range Map of Canada

Swift Fox Range Map of Canada 

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca 

With the release of 942 foxes between the years of 1983 and 1997, the Swift Fox was reintroduced to its natural range along the Canadian – US border in Saskatchewan, and Alberta.  In 1999, 279 wild foxes were estimated to exist and the status of wild Canadian Swift Foxes was downlisted from "extirpated" to “endangered”.

Non-territorial in nature, this species of fox inhabits a home range of 32-34 km². It has a preference for areas that have a good view of landscapes that are scarcely covered with short and mixed grassland vegetation. Beneficial habitat can be found in large tracts of native grasslands of buffalo grass, bluestem, and wire grass that still exist in the Wood Mountain/Grasslands National Park Reserve of Saskatchewan/Alberta.

Dens favouring the Swift Foxes mobility on well-drained slopes and hilltops with good visibility are important for the swift fox population survival. These sites also require a nearby stable water source 

Description of Swift Fox:

With the ability to travel at speeds of 50-60 km/hr this quick fox is appropriately named the swift fox.

Mostly nocturnal, it comes out of its burrow after sunset during the summer and stays in its den during the day. Winter time is a different in that it will appear around noon during the highest temperatures of the winter day.

The swift fox is more dependent upon their den, which is usually underground and measures two to four meters long for shelter and predator avoidance, than most canids. This species of fox also has a low tolerance for windy conditions during all times of the year.

This fox is a light gray in colour and darkens to almost black as it runs from its shoulder, across it back and on down to the end of its tail.

The gray flanks or sides of its body are mingled with orange and yellow colour as the colour moves down the body to its legs which at this point will have no gray. Its neck, chest and belly will be a pale yellow or white colour.

The head of this little guy is triangular in shape. Its’ ears are rather large for its size and its muzzle contains a black hue. Add whitish coloured cheeks, white around the eyes, and a white throat.

Like most members of the animal kingdom, males are slightly larger than females. A typical height for the species is 11.8 in. (30cm), an overall length of 31 in. (79cm) from head to tail and a weight of 4.4 – 6.6 lbs. (2-3 kg.).

The life expectancy for a wild swift fox is 3 to 6 years of age.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Swift Fox:

Like most members of the dog family, the swift foxes’ diet is made up of plant material, insects and mammals.

Its diet consists of: rabbits, mice, groundhogs, ground squirrels, birds, insects, amphibians and lizards. Samples of scat collected in Alberta showed that its diet consisted of 64.1% rodents, 23.6% ungulates, 5.2% hares, pikas, and rabbits, and 2.1% ground squirrels. However, it will augment its diet with herbs and fruits. Being an efficient predator it will target its food source according to seasonal availability.

The 23.6% ungulate component in its diet suggests that it will consume carrion or remains of animals that were killed by other mammals.

When the weather is cold, swift foxes will cache surplus food reserves in the snow.

Breeding and Reproduction of Swift Fox:

Swift Fox

Swift Fox
Photo By Bureau of Land Management - Flickr

Here in Canada, the breeding of mature swift foxes begins late February to March, gestation is about 50 days and a single litter of 4-5 pups is produced late April to Mid-May.

Pairing of the foxes is sporadic in that some pairs will stay together throughout their lives while others will choose a different partner each year.

Sexual maturity for this fox is reached at one year old for males and females are generally in their second year of life before breeding occurs.

The swift fox is quite capable of digging their own burrow or den but they will often convert and use abandoned dens of other mammals like that of a badger or ground squirrel.

The pups are born blind and deaf and the vixen will constantly care for them until their eyes and ears are functional in 10 to 15 days. During this period the male fox hunts and provides food for the female and its pups. The newborns will remain in the burrow for about one month. At this time both adult foxes will hunt and provide food for the growing family. At 6 to 7 weeks of age the kits will be out of den and feeding on their own. The pups remain with their parents and disperse in the fall at 4-5 months of age. The average dispersal range of the young foxes is 12.8 km. but ranges as high as 190 km. have been recorded.

The swift fox is not like other members of the dog family in that it will utilize multiple dens (as many as 13) during the year as part of its rearing, predator avoidance, hunting, and shelter strategy. Another abnormality of this fox is that it is the female that maintains the home range and social structure of the group. It is the male that migrates if the female dies.

Status of Swift Fox in Canada

Probably taking into account the status of the US Swift Fox population it is listed as a species of least concern (2016) on the Red List. However the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada COSEWIC assessed it as “threatened” in November of 2009.

When considering the mortality rate of the swift fox, 31% of the deaths come from coyotes. The important note here is that the coyote does not kill this fox for food. Natural predators of the fox, includes birds of prey (6%) and badgers (3%). Predation by Bobcats is likely but that impact is unknown.

Human interaction is primarily from vehicular interaction on roads (6%).

An interesting aspect noted by one source was that they are sometimes killed by hunters because they were thought to be a coyote. I cannot stress enough that as a hunter, we are responsible for what we do. Recognition of the species needs to be considered every time we pull the trigger.

Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

 

Grey Fox In Tree

Gray Fox In Tree 
 Photo By Todd Fowler - Flickr


Range - Distribution and Habitat of Gray Fox

Grey Fox Range Map of Canada

 Grey Fox Range Map of Canada

Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

The Gray Fox does not have a large range in Canada. Range exists in Southern Ontario, (Pelee Island on Lake Erie, Niagara Region, Windsor Area, and Thousand Islands). Additional sightings have been made west of Lake Superior in the Rainy River District of Ontario and Manitoba. Because of its proximity to Ontario’s Thousand Islands a few of these foxes may inhabit a very small portion of Southern Quebec.

The Gray Fox is quite territorial of it range and on a daily basis, it will utilize only a small portion of its 1 to 7 Km² territory as it aimlessly searches within its territory for food.  The average territory is 2.1Km² in size, depending largely on the geographic structure of the territory and available food supply in it..

Preference is given to territories on the fringe areas of farmland and broad-leaf forests or marshes with water readily available nearby. Gray Foxes utilize dens more often than Red Foxes. The den of this fox is usually found in an underground cavity such as: in a hollow tree or log, in abandoned burrows from other animals, or in a crevice located between or under large rocks. A unique aspect of this member of the canid family is that it is the only member that is capable of climbing trees and can even leap from branch to branch. Keep this in mind if you think you detect a den in the forest canopy as high as 32 ft. (10 meters) in the air in a hollow tree trunk or between limbs.

The Gray Fox is the prevailing species when Red and Gray Foxes co-exist.

The Gray fox is mainly nocturnal or more active at twilight; it also seems to be hindered by cold weather and deep snow conditions.

Description of Gray Fox:

The Gray Fox is similar in size and appearance to that of the Red Fox. The Gray Fox is often mistaken for a Red Fox because of its rusty-red fur on its ears, ruffs and neck. Differentiating features include: its rounded ears and brownish or tawny coloured fur with streaks of grey and light cinnamon coloured patches on its body. Its tail is very long and bushy with the tip of its tail being black instead of white. Its legs and ears are shorter and it also lacks the “black leg stocking” that Red Fox has. It has a smaller nose, an overall color that is grey. The darkest colour on the Grey Fox runs along the top of its back on down to the end of its tail. The under belly, throat, and chest areas are an off white color.

Like most members of the dog family, males are slightly larger than females. A typical shoulder height for the species is 15 in. (38cm), an overall length of 29.9 – 44.3 in. (76 - 112.5 cm) from head to tail, the tail will take up 10.8 – 17.4 in. (27.5 - 44.3 cm) of that overall length and have a weight of 7.9 – 15.4 lbs. (3.6 - 7 kg.). Some specimens have been recorded at 20 lbs. (9 kg). 

Again, one of the unique evolutionary features of this fox is its strong non retractable hooked claws that allow it to climb a branchless vertical tree trunk to a height of 32 ft (10 meters). This defence mechanism allows it to escape many would be predators like a domestic dog or coyote. It also allows it access to food sources in the tree tops that other members of the dog family can’t get to or it may simply wish to take a nap in the sun.

It is able to travel and jump from branch to branch of trees. Descending from trees is primarily by jumping from branch to branch, or it may slowly climb backwards down the trunk like a cat would and is able to descend head first.

Additional miscellaneous anatomical features are:

  • Both male and female Gray Foxes have scent glands jusst inside the anus.
  • Additional scent glands are found on their face and the pads of their feet.
  • Although these glands are primarily used to mark their territory, they may also be used to attract potential mates.
  • The eyes of the Gray Fox are dark eyes with elliptical or oval pupils (instead of slit-like).
  • Dental formula is: Incisors 3/3, Canine 1/1, Premolars 4/4, Molars 2/3 = 42 teeth.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Gray Fox:

 Grey Fox

Gray Fox

 Photo By John Northrup - Flickr

Despite the fact that this fox does possess an acute sense of smell, the foraging strategy for this mammal is not to track its prey but to aimlessly wander and search for it by either smelling or hearing it. Once prey is detected it may stalk it and finally use a pouncing method to capture it.

The Gray Fox hunts alone and preys on both plant and animal food sources. It will prey on rabbits, squirrels, mice, voles, shrews, rats, insects, and birds like quail, turkeys, and ruffed grouse. When it comes to birds that it preys on, it will take and target adult birds as well as the birds young and eggs. During the winter, its diet consists more of rabbits and rodents where as in the summer and fall it will supplement with and consume what ever vegetable matter is available and that could be in the form of apples, corn, wild grapes, nuts and berries. Like the other members of the Canid family Grays will eat also carrion left by other mammals.

Breeding and Reproduction of Gray Fox:

Most Gray Foxes breed and raise litters in the first year of their lives because male Gray Foxes reach sexual maturity at about 365 days where as females take only 345 days. During September and October males and females pair off before the breeding season arrives. The business of attracting mates becomes competitive at this time and males can exhibit a lot of aggression while trying to get and keep a mate.

The Gray Fox breeds once a year in the months from January to May with the peak of the season occurring in early March. Typically they have only one partner but rare occurrences of polygamy and polyandry do exist.

Shortly before bearing her litter, the female will search out and prepare a maturity den. The male will begin to do the majority of foraging for food for the pair of them at this time and will continue to do so until the pups come out of the den in about 3 months. Dens are generally in the ground, although capable of climbing trees and using a hollow as a den, this fox will rarely do so.

From the time that the litter of kits is born: till the time that the young disperse. The family group will consist of the male, female and young pups.

The gestation period for the female is 51 – 63 days with an average of 53 days. Most litters of 1 to 7 pups are born in late March or April and average 3.8 pups. The pups are born blind, have a fine black textured fur and will weigh approximately 3.35 oz. (95g). Their eyes will open in 9-12 days.  

The pups begin eating solid food around the time that they are 3 weeks old. Pups are taught their hunting skills by going after and pouncing on small mammals that have been brought to them by the male.

The male continues to hunt for the family and the female provides den care for their offspring until they are about 3 months of age. At this time the young will begin to exit the den and forage with the parents. Nursing of the young continues till about the 4th month (84 to 120 days) which is when their teeth are developed and they are capable of hunting for themselves.

The group of parents and young stay together until the fall at which time the young have reached sexual maturity and will set out on their own. The distance that the young Gray Foxes travel can be as short as a mile of their birthplace. For this reason, Gray Foxes can have high population densities where adequate food sources are found.

The life expectancy of a wild Gray Foxes is 6 – 10 years of age,

Status of Gray Fox in Canada

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada COSEWIC assessed it as “threatened” in November of 2015.

When it comes to diseases, the Gray Fox can fall victim to parvo enteritis, rabies, roundworms, tapeworms, lice and mites. The opportunity for contact with domestic dogs can lead to cases of distemper which is oftentimes lethal and destroy Gray Fox populations.

The Gray Fox has several natural predators, namely coyotes, bobcats, great horned owls, and golden eagles. But the worst enemy of the Gray Fox is probably the domestic dog. Juvenile Gray Foxes are often killed by dogs before they have a chance to get to safety in a hole or up a tree.

The effect of trapping Gray Foxes in Canada is not really known. But it is thought that this activity is limiting the range of the Gray outside of Pelee Island.  

References
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/red-fox.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_fox
  • http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/resource-centre/featured-species/swift_fox.html?gclid=CjwKEAjwudW9BRDcrd30kovf8GkSJAB3hTxFrBTZLH16hCIAXE4HzF--ExBkLOHAISXtQUMwCxX1NBoChhnw_wcB?referrer=https://www.google.ca/
  • Translated: es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulpes_velox&prev=search
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/swift-fox.html
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/arctic-fox.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_fox
  • http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/red-fox.html
  • http://www.hww.ca/assets/pdfs/factsheets/red-fox-en.pdf
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_fox_(animal)
  • http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=140
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/species-at-risk/species-at-risk-publications-web-resources/mammals/documents/SAR-StatusSwiftFoxAlberta-1997.pdf
  • http://aep.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/wild-species/mammals/wild-dogs/swift-fox.aspx
  • https://www.ontario.ca/page/grey-fox
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_fox
  • http://mnrsar.cat.webfeat.com/pages/MNR_SAR_GRY_FX_EN.aspx
  • http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=157

Background Images

  • Arctic Fox - Emma - Flickr
  • Red Fox - Yellowstone National Park - Flicker
  • Swift Fox - Tim Strater - Flicker
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