|Photo: Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences|
The gray fox is the most common and widespread fox in California. Two unique characteristics of this fox are its ability to climb and their partially retractable claws. It is the only canine in America with the ability to climb, escaping predators or foraging for food by climbing trees. Generally secretive and primarily nocturnal, a gray fox may be seen foraging for food in dense forest cover. They travel mostly at night and do not form packs, but may occasionally be seen in a small family group. The chief enemies of gray foxes are dogs, human and eagles.
- Silvery to steel gray with conspicuous patches of yellow, brown or white on the throat, along sides & legs; white underside. Darker hairs run down the back and along top of the tail. Short legs
- Gray fox tracks are usually distinct due to the lack of fur on the feet. The tracks always show imprints of claws, with 7 to 12 inches between walking prints.
- The size of a dog, size can vary greatly; 21 to 44 inches long including tail; tail can be 11 to 16 inches long. They weigh 12 to 13 lbs.
- Chaparral, brushy sparsely wooded regions; cultivated areas. Dens are among boulders on rocky ridges, or in rock piles or hollow logs; may even den under farm buildings.
- They are found throughout the US, except the northwest and Rocky Mountains; south through South America.
- The gray fox is omnivorous, eating a variety of foods–small rodents, birds, berries, insects and fungi. Their ability to climb enables them to obtain a greater variety of food, but the bulk of their food consists of gophers, mice, wood rats and birds. Sometimes food is cached to be eaten later.
- Mating occurs in late winter; 3 to 5 pups are born in April or May. Occasionally two females den together and care for a combined litter. Males remain with females while young are dependent. Young leave the den after a month or so to begin playing.