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Who Are Grey Foxes?

Foxes are medium-sized mammals that belong to the Carnivora Order and share the Canidae Family with wolves, dogs, coyotes, and jackals. What sets the grey fox apart from all the other Canids is its unique ability to climb trees. This exceptional ability has earned the grey fox an alternate name, the tree fox. It is also common to see its name spelled as the gray fox.

There are five genera of foxes, worldwide, which include 22 different species altogether. The grey fox and the island gray fox are the only two species found in the Urocyon genus, which is a Greek term for tailed dog. The scientific name of the grey fox is the Urocyon cinereoargenteus, where cinerero means ash-colored, and argenteus means silver. There are 16 subspecies of the grey fox, in all.

How Are Grey Foxes Classified?

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Urocyon
Species: cinereoargenteus
Subspecies (Florida): floridanus

What Do They Look Like?

The grey fox has a deep-chested body with four short, powerful legs, an ideal physique for speed and endurance. Its muzzle is elongated, its ears are pointed, and its tail is bushy. Grey foxes have extremely sharp, curved claws that allow them to dig dens, capture their prey, climb trees, and protect themselves from predators.

From nose to tail, grey foxes measure between 32 and 46 inches, with the tail contributing to over a third of their length. Grey foxes usually weigh about seven to thirteen pounds, with an average height of 12 inches up to their shoulders. Males are only slightly larger than females. The grey fox is covered with a salt-and-pepper colored coat that contains a combination of grey, black, white, and red fur. As its name suggests, the grey fox is mostly grey on its body, face, and belly. The red fur on the sides of its face, neck, ears, legs, and on parts of its tail sometimes causes this species to be confused with the red fox. The black and white fur is blended throughout the grey fox’s coat, but its cheeks, muzzle, and throat are all white, and the tip of the tail is black.

What Are Their Senses Like?

The grey fox has 42 teeth, with four of them being sharp canine teeth. This animal has dark eyes with oval-shaped pupils and is known to have keen eyesight, even in dim lighting. A grey fox’s sense of hearing and its sense of smell are even stronger than its eyesight. These senses serve as advantages for a fox when hunting for prey and when detecting danger. In addition, the grey fox has scent glands on its face, on the pads of its feet, and just inside the anus. The grey fox uses the scent glands inside the anus to mark its territory and to attract potential mates, just as a domesticated dog uses these scent glands.

What Kind of Tracks Do They Make?

Grey foxes have extremely sharp, curved claws that allow them to dig dens, capture their prey, climb trees, and protect themselves from predators. Sometimes the claws can be seen in the tracks, but other times they are not visible. Their tracks are small, usually less than two inches long, and they reveal four toes. These paw prints are symmetrical with the two toes in the center lying slightly ahead of the toes that lie on either side.

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