Monday, September 29, 2008

Gray Fox

We own eight acres outside Asheville now and plan to build on the land one day. I love to hike in this wooded sanctuary and just sit quietly under an old oak tree with a huge burl on its side. The other day I was pleasantly surprised with a brief glimpse of a fox while sitting in my spot. I had looked up to see what was going on above me towards the ridge line and a dark form ran east to west - larger than a cat yet with a very bushy tail. I looked up foxes on the Western North Carolina Nature Center (www.wildwnc.org) site and found this info.

Gray foxes range throughout the US except the northwestern quarter as well as northern Mexico and Baja California. We have gray foxes in our Carolina mountains, but they are rarer on our coast. The gray fox is different from other species of fox found in Western NC. A quick way to tell the difference in the gray and red fox is, the gray fox has a black tip on its tail, and the red fox has a white tip on its tail.

The gray fox weighs between 7 and 13 pounds. It has a salt-and-pepper coat with buff underfur, usually a median black stripe down its back and long bushy tail, and a black tip on its tail. There can be other color phases - red, cross (red coat with a darkish strip down the back and across tile shoulders), and black.

The gray fox is omnivorous, it feeds on cottontail rabbits, mice, and other small mammals, birds, eggs, insects, plant material, and fruits. The gray fox is primarily nocturnal, but may occasionally be seen foraging during the daylight hours. They mate around February and March, and have 2-7 young, which are born in March or April. The male helps tend to the young, although he does not den with them. They den in hollow logs, beneath boulders, in ground burrows, or in hillsides. The young begin to hunt on their own around 4 months of age. Gray foxes prefer woody, brushy habitats, unlike the red fox which prefers more open Habitats. Gray foxes have been known to climb trees to find refuge from a threat, or to forage for eggs or fruit.

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