The gray fox is often confused with the red fox because the gray has rusty-red fur on its ears, ruffs and neck. Overall coloration is gray, and the darkest color extends in a suggested stripe along the top of the back down to the end of the tail. The belly, throat, and chest areas are whitish in color.
Gray fox appear smaller than red fox. The shorter leg length and stockier body are deceptive. Many gray fox weigh about the same as red fox in the same habitat types. Males and females both weigh 8 to 11 pounds on average. Weights are often about 8 pounds in southern states, and nearer 11 in northern states.
Compared to red fox, grays have shorter muzzles and shorter ears which are usually held erect and pointed forward. Many grays stand about 15 inches tall at the shoulders and overall lengths are around 40-44 inches including a tail of 12 to 15 inches. It is important to remember that the gray fox is the only fox that climbs trees.
The red fox measures 22 to 32 inches in head and body length, and the tail is 14 to 16 inches long. The adult red fox weight is from 6 to 15 pounds, but it appears heavier than it actually is.
The red fox is usually recognized by its reddish coat and black "leg-stockings." Red is the most common color, but the hair may be from light yellow to deep auburn red. The white tip on the tail will distinguish this fox from other species, despite its color phase.
Preventing Conflicts with Red & Gray Fox
- Secure your garbage! Foxes will raid open trash materials and compost piles. Secure your garbage in tough plastic containers with tight fitting lids and keep in secure buildings when possible. Take out trash the morning pick up is scheduled, not the previous night. Keep compost piles in containers designed to contain but vent the material.
- Don't feed or try to pet foxes! Keep wild things wild! Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause foxes to act tame and over time may lead to bold behavior. Foxes that rely on natural food items remain wild and wary of humans.
- Keep your pets safe! Although free roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than by wild animals, foxes can view cats as potential food. For the safety of your pets, keep them restrained at all times.
- Keep bird feeder areas clean! Use feeders designed to keep seed off the ground as the seed attracts many small mammals foxes prey upon. Remove feeders if foxes are regularly seen around your yard. Feed pets indoors! Outdoor feeding attracts many wild animals to your door!
- Close off crawl spaces under porches and sheds! Foxes use such areas for resting and raising young.
- Don't let foxes intimidate you! Don't hesitate to scare or threaten foxes with loud noises, bright lights, or water.
- Cut back brushy edges in your yard! These areas provide cover for foxes and their prey.
- Educate your neighbors! Pass this information along since your efforts will be futile if neighbors are providing food or shelter for foxes.
Foxes are an important natural resource in Massachusetts. They are classified as a furbearer species, for which an established regulated hunting season and management program exists. If you are experiencing problems with, or have questions regarding foxes, contact the nearest MassWildlife District office.