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What Is Their Place in Nature?

At one time, grey foxes were a target of both hunters who hunted them for sport, and trappers who hunted them for their fur. This threatened the species in some areas, causing them to become limited in numbers. However, today the U. cinereoargenteus is abundant, as this animal has managed to maintain a stable population over the last few decades. Exact numbers of the grey fox population are hard to obtain because they live in such large ranges, exhibit secretive habits, and are difficult to capture. Grey foxes hold multiple roles in nature, serving as predators, prey, and hosts for several different parasites.

What Do Grey Foxes Eat?

The grey fox is omnivorous, meaning it eats both plants and other animals. Unlike other Canids that hunt in packs, the grey fox hunts alone. It will stalk its prey for a while then pounce, using its long curved claws to trap and kill its victim. The preferred meal for a grey fox is a cottontail rabbit, but it will feast on other small mammals such as mice, wood rats, and cotton rats. This variety of vertebrates makes up the majority of a grey fox’s diet in the winter. The grey fox also eats invertebrates such as grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, and moths. Along with birds, eggs, fruits, nuts, and grains, these invertebrates make up most of a grey fox’s diet in the spring. If a grey fox has excess food, it is a common habit to bury it and mark it with urine or their scent glands to ward off other animals and to make it easier to find later.

What Dangers Do Grey Foxes Face?

Within their own home range, foxes battle with the factors of competition between other foxes, habitat quality, and the availability of food. However, the more serious dangers grey foxes struggle with are humans, predation, parasites, and disease. Humans pose a threat to grey foxes through hunting, trapping, and the use of automobiles. Also, a farmer may resort to killing a fox if it acts as a nuisance to his animals. The four main predators of the grey fox are the coyote, the bobcat, the golden eagle, and the great horned owl. The grey fox will either hide under cover or climb trees to evade danger. Grey foxes will fight for their lives with their teeth and sharp claws if they are unable to escape in time.

Many different parasites use grey foxes as hosts, which can lead to discomfort, disease, and even death. There are over thirty types of external parasites that live on these animals, some including lice, ticks, mites, chiggers, and fleas. Some examples of internal parasites that grey foxes may encounter are roundworms, flatworms, and tapeworms. Because of these parasitic organisms, the grey fox is vulnerable to canine diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, and heartworms. While grey foxes rarely contract rabies, they must avoid canine distemper, which is the most common fatal disease of this species.

For more information, see the References and Further Reading page.