Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) or Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes)
Foxes are small to medium-sized omnivorous mammals of the Canidae family that you might be able to spot in the Everglades. The widespread world population of foxes, coupled with their cunning nature, has made the animal a regular depiction in pop culture and a fan favorite among guests.
Foxes have partially retractable claws and are digitigrade, meaning they walk on their toes. The typical lifespan of a fox in the wild is one to three years, although they can live up to twelve in captivity. Typically, they live in small family groups, but some are solitary. They are extremely skittish of predators and people, making each sighting of them a truly special occurrence.
Characteristics of the Red Foxes
The Red Fox, known scientifically as Vulpes vulpes, is easily recognizable and has been an iconic presence in numerous cultures and stories. In Florida, as in many parts of the world, the Red Fox has a stable or expanding population, a testament to its adaptability and cunning.
- Appearance: One of the standout features of the Red Fox is its vibrant rusty yellow color that adorns its fur. This, contrasted with its white underbelly, gives the red fox its distinct look. The red fox’s size is comparable to a small dog, but its agile build is unmistakably that of a wild animal.
- Black Ear Tips: This feature is particularly noteworthy, as the sharp black ear tips not only add to the fox’s aesthetic but also serve to differentiate it from other similar species.
- Are Florida foxes dangerous? Generally, red foxes are shy and tend to avoid humans. However, it’s essential to remember they are wild animals. Approaching or feeding them can alter their natural behavior, making them more unpredictable.
- Population and Hunting: Despite their expanding numbers, Red Foxes have historically been targets for hunting clubs in various regions, often for sport or to protect small livestock.
Characteristics of the Gray Foxes
The Gray Fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus, is a unique and fascinating creature. Its presence in Florida, like the red fox, has been noted to have a stable or expanding population, making the state a thriving habitat for these creatures.
- Appearance: While it shares some similarities in size to the red fox, appearing like a small dog, the gray fox is distinguished by its beautiful grizzled gray fur coat. The white underbelly provides a contrast that’s visually striking.
- Distinctive Features: One of the features that sets the gray fox apart is the presence of black ear tips. This can be used as a quick identifier if you’re lucky enough to spot one in the wild.
- Florida foxes – Are they dangerous?: Gray foxes, like their red counterparts, are typically not a threat to humans. But, as with all wildlife, they should be observed from a distance and never approached or fed. Doing so can make even typically docile creatures like the gray fox potentially dangerous.
- Habitat and Population: The expanding population of gray foxes indicates that Florida’s ecosystems are supportive of their life. This is despite the challenges posed by urbanization and the occasional run-ins with hunting clubs.
Fox Habitats and Living Conditions
Foxes are found on every continent except Antarctica. They can survive in many different habitats, including forests, grasslands, mountains, deserts, farms, suburban areas, and even large communities. They make their homes in the ground by digging burrows.
Several fox species are endangered in their native environments due to habitat loss and being hunted for pelts, other trades, or control.
SIZE & APPEARANCE
Foxes are slightly smaller than a medium-sized domestic dog, with a flattened skull, triangular face, upright ears, a pointed upturned snout, and a long bushy tail. They are generally smaller than other members of the Canidae family, with the largest species measuring between 9 and 20 pounds and the smallest species weighing between just 1.5 and 3 pounds.
Foxes differ in fur color, length, and density. Fur colors range from pearly white to black and white variations.
A fox’s diet is largely made up of small mammals – small vertebrates – including reptiles, birds, and rodents, but they will also eat invertebrates such as insects and crayfish. They don’t have very restrictive diets also snacking on fruit, vegetables, fish, frogs, eggs, and plants. Most species of fox eat about 2 pounds of food per day, “caching,” or burying excess for later.
Foxes use a pouncing technique in which they camouflage themselves in their terrain before using their hind legs to spring at their target.
The Fox Lifecycle in Florida
In February, when the Vixen is ready to give birth, she begins looking for a den. Often, a vixen will dig a new den at this time; it is common to find them living under sheds and outbuildings. The red fox avoids heavily wooded areas, but they do love a well-hidden den
Fox kits are generally born in the spring after a 63-day gestation period. Generally, March or April. They then emerge from the den about four to five weeks after birth and begin sniffing around the outside of the den. The vixen will bring live prey for them to play with and learn how to kill and eat. They grow up fast! By nine weeks old, they can leave the den and begin to hunt with their parents.
Generally, the fox will hunt small mammals, but it will also eat crawfish and other easily caught animals.
Generally, the kits will leave their parents and live independently around the seven-month mark. They often stay close, but in some cases, males have been found 150 miles away from their birthplace.
The Unique Features of Florida Foxes
The red fox has distinctive characteristics such as the white tip of their brownish-black tails, the red fur variations, and the prominence of black-tipped ears.
In Florida, the foxes do not get a winter coat as they do further north. They do tend to add weight for the winter but won’t be as fluffy. There are also grayish or “dark chestnut” variations of the red fox, which can make them harder to distinguish from the gray fox, which is also found throughout Florida, mostly in the northern parts of the state. .
One way to tell them apart is that the gray fox will have a black-tipped tails while the red fox will have that distinctive white tip.
- Foxes can identify each other’s voices and have 28 different sounds used to communicate.
- Vast Vocal Repertoire
- Whine – Made shortly after birth. Occurs at a high rate when cubs are hungry and when their body temperatures are low; hearing these newborns is a rare treat on an airboat tour. Whining stimulates the mother to care for her young; it also has been known to stimulate the male fox into caring for his mate and cubs.
- Yelp – Made about 19 days later. The cubs’ whining turns into infantile barks yelps, which occur heavily during play; keep an ear out for it while on Miami airboat tours.
- Explosive call – At the age of about one month, the cubs can emit an explosive call which is intended to be threatening to intruders or other cubs; a high pitch howl.
- Combative call – In adults, the explosive call becomes an open-mouthed combative call during any conflict; a sharper bark which is a common sound to hear during an.
- Growl – An adult fox’s indication to their cubs to feed or head to the adult’s location.
- Bark – Adult foxes warn against intruders and in defense by barking.
- Fox hunting originated in the United Kingdom in the 16th century and is now a recreational practice in Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Russia, and the United States.
- A recent notable case of domestication in foxes sees the Russian silver fox adopting many traits of domestic cats and dogs, letting themselves be pet and even whimpering for attention. You won’t find any aboard an Everglades boat, but the trend is fascinating.
- A fox’s coat color, length, and density can all change due to season, location, and age.
- Foxes are very fast. They can run at speeds up to 45 miles per hour.