Gray Fox Reports Requested
Red foxes are easily recognizable because of their bright reddish-orange coat and black stockings and ears, but have you recently seen their cousin, the gray fox, in Indiana?
If you have, we’d like to know.
Although not as common in Indiana as red foxes, gray foxes are native to the state. They are similar in size to red foxes, but tend to be smaller. Unlike red foxes, gray foxes have reddish-brown ears, and gray and brown legs.
Usually, red foxes can be easily distinguished from gray foxes by the color of their coat. But a small number of red foxes go through a gray color phase. For that reason, gray foxes can often best be distinguished from red foxes by their tail, which has a black stripe down its length, as opposed to the tail of red foxes, which usually have a white tip with no stripe.
Unlike their other canine relatives like the red fox, coyote and domestic dogs, gray foxes can climb trees because of their special claws that partially retract into their paws. This trait allows their claws to stay sharp. By comparison, coyote, dog, and red fox claws stay out all the time. Those animals use their claws for traction when running.
The diet of the gray fox consists primarily of rodents, rabbits, squirrels, fruit and insects. Because of their ability to climb trees to escape danger or rest, gray foxes are most likely to be found in forested areas but they also go into fields to hunt.
Gray foxes are an important part of Indiana’s wildlife community because they help control rodent populations and eat carrion. Gray foxes are also a valuable furbearer because their fur can be made into warm, sustainable clothing.
Fur-buyer data, observations by bowhunters, and reports from trappers suggest gray foxes are declining in Indiana. Once common statewide, gray foxes now seem to be limited to primarily southern Indiana and the far northeastern corner of the state.
The DNR seeks information on encounters with gray foxes in hopes of conducting research on the species. Reports of sightings, of hunted or trapped gray foxes, or trail camera photos are welcome.
If you see a gray fox, please contact furbearer biologist Geriann Albers, at galbers@dnr.IN.gov or 812-822-3304.