Monday, June 29, 2009 4:13 PM

You Little Vixen!

I'm quite sure that this is the same fox that made its way across our front yard one Saturday afternoon just about a month ago. At that time, I thought it was a cat until I looked more closely. By then, it was too late to snap a picture. This time, as you can see, I caught her (?) on her way back into the woods. Just a few seconds before, she had been walking toward our house! I wanted to get a photo of her face, but she was too quick for me. I have noticed that particular talent before; foxes seem able to move very quickly without actually seeming in a hurry. At any rate, I now had a picture to prove that this fox was indeed gray or silver, not red. A couple of people I had mentioned my previous sighting to looked at me like I had two heads when I said the fox was gray! Well, you people, put this in your pip and smick it!

As it turns out, we were all correct, sort of. Both Red and Gray foxes are considered native to North America, with the Red having the most extensive territory, having been imported from Europe to the U.S. Southeast and West. These animals were used both for "recreational" hunting and to prop up the fur trade. In Australia, where they are also an introduced species, Red foxes have caused an environmental nightmare, having no natural predators and hunting to extinction several natural species. Besides most of the U.S. (including Alaska), Canada and Europe, Red foxes are also found in countries such as North Africa and Israel, as well as most of Asia.

Both Red and Gray foxes are members of the dog family, Canidae. They are considered carnivores, but are actually omnivorous and very opportunistic. This explains how they have adapted so well to the infiltration of humans into their habitat. Although foxes tend to be a bit shy and prefer sparsely populated areas, they have become a very common sight in densely populated rural areas as well as many cities. Humans make waste wherever they go, and many formerly wild and seldom-seen species of animals have used that fact to their advantage!

So, was this a Gray fox? It seems it could be. It could also be a Red fox, since approximately 10% of the feral population exhibits this coloring, called a grey morph, from which the domesticated Silver fox has been selectively bred. Both Red and Gray foxes would be raising their kits at this time of year, which probably accounts for these sightings.

Despite their categorization as canids, I have always thought that foxes act very much like cats. I'm sure that I read, way back in high school, that they were distant relations of cats. Their movements are very catlike, especially the way they walk and suddenly look behind them, just like a cat. The Gray fox can actually climb trees, somewhat rare for dogs but common for cats. Apparently, the scientific community is also a bit divided on this classification, with one contingent clamoring for foxes to be reclassified as felids. Well.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for this vixen's return so that maybe this "Red" or "Gray" mystery will eventually be solved. Who knows--maybe I'll get lucky and I'll get the chance to photograph her climbing a tree!

Read about foxes and all kinds of other things on Wikipedia.
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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