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CRITTER SPOTLIGHT: Gray fox: Urocyon cinereoargenteus and red fox Vulpes vulpes

Good Morning Lovely Watershed Explorers,


I hope that this critter spotlight finds you well. Today's critter spotlight was inspired by my youngest daughter. She loves all animals, but has a special place in her heart for foxes. She was even a fox for Halloween this year.


In Rhode Island there are two different species of fox. The gray fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus and the red fox, Vulpes vulpes. Here are pictures of both species below.




Red foxes are more common in the Northeast, due to their adaptability in the snow. They are larger and have a longer muzzle, and legs. Both species are primarily nocturnal, but at times are described as crepuscular which means that they hunt at dawn and dusk. It is also common to see foxes hunting during the day when they are raising young.


Foxes are omnivores. They will eat small mammals, invertebrates, fruits, and grains. Foxes are opportunistic feeders and will eat what is available. They can be dangerous to pets and unsecured livestock, however, they are afraid of people and will avoid, as opposed to confront them. It is best to keep pets and farm animals secured at night if you suspect that foxes are living nearby.


Both species of fox live 4-5 years. Female foxes can have 3-6 babies at a time. Fox babies are called pups. Female foxes seek dens to give birth. Foxes will dig their own dens, but they prefer to enlarge the dens of other mammals, such as woodchucks (fact from Massachusetts Audubon). They will also create dens under man-made structures like decks and sheds. Pups are blind and helpless for the first 10-12 days of life, and they usually remain in the den for the first 4 weeks. Female and male adult foxes care for young. Females nurse pups for about 3 weeks and males bring food to the den for both the female and the pups. Once the pups are older, both the male and the female leave the den in search of food.


A neat difference between gray and red foxes is that gray foxes have retractable claws. This adaptation makes it possible for the gray fox to climb trees. Foxes make interesting vocalizations. The red fox makes screeching noises that sound very similar to that of a fisher cat, and the gray fox mostly barks. Both species of fox mark their territory by urinating (peeing) or defecating (pooping).


It is important to remember never to approach a fox. Foxes can carry rabies, which can be very dangerous to humans.


Neither species of fox is in danger. Foxes can be hunted, but this practice is highly regulated to ensure that populations remain stable.


I hope that you enjoyed learning more about Rhode Island's two fox species. If you have a suggestion for a future critter spotlight, remember to email Mrs. Morissette at cmorissette@narraby.com


Happy Exploring Watershed Explorers,

Mrs. Morissette



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