Grey Fox

One evening we had some unexpected visitors in our yard.  A group of grey foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) wandered around for about fifteen minutes.  They were oblivious as I took pictures.  But, of course, I stayed on the porch and close to the door.

They usually hunt alone, so I’m not sure why they were foraging together.  They are monogamous  and the kits stay with them and hunt with them when they’re just three months old.  The family stays together until the pups’ first autumn.  That would make them about six to seven months old when they leave their parents.

None of these looked that young to me.  Maybe they were looking for fruit, which is important in their diet.  Their main diet is small animals like rabbits, mice, gophers, baby jackrabbits, insects and grasshoppers.

The females are only slightly smaller than the males.  You can see the tail has a line of black on the top ending with a black tip at the end.  The tail isn’t really rounded but a triangular shape.

Their fur has several colors with a reddish circle around the neck and red brown on the legs. The gray fox is mainly distinguished from most other canids, like dogs, wolves, and coyotes, by its grizzled upper parts, strong neck and black-tipped tail.

Hunters say that foxes are adept at climbing trees, particularly if the tree is leaning or has low branches. They use this as an escape route when hounds are chasing them.

There are plenty of grassy fields and wooded areas here for their dens.  They can hide in burrows dug in the ground, in rock crevices, under rocks, or in hollow logs.

We don’t consider the foxes to be a problem like the coyotes are.  They don’t attack small live stock like goats and calves.  In fact, foxes are usually very elusive.  We only occasionally see them darting into the woods as we pass by on the roads.

I’m not sure how the fox got its bad reputation as being mean-spirited.  Maybe it all started with Aesop’s fables.  In those, the fox  used lying, trickery, and deception to cheat the other animals and leave them in the lurch.  I guess some animal had to be the bad guy to teach those morals.

“It’s not unprofessional to give free legal advice, but advertising that the first visit will be free is a bit like a fox telling chickens he will not bite them until they cross the threshold of the hen house.”       Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice, US Supreme Court

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