The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Sunday, May 02, 2004

A Gray Fox is a Marvelous Creature
Ro Wauer, May 2, 2004, The Victoria Advocate, © 2004

I hadn't seen a gray fox in my yard for several months. But last week one was there nevertheless, and I even was able to watch it for several minutes before it ran off into the adjacent woods. It was obvious why it was named "gray" fox. The entire upper side is gray from the head to the tail, although the snout and the end of the tail are black. And the undersides, including the legs, are a cinnamon color. The legs are short, not like the lanky stature of the larger coyote. And the ears are noticeably smaller, too.

The gray fox, along with the coyote, is one of the most widespread mammals in Texas, residing from the Trans-Pecos to the Gulf Coast and from the Panhandle to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Its habitat preference differs, however, as the gray fox is a woodland animal and the coyote prefers more open areas. And as its choice of habitats suggests, the gray fox, unlike the coyote, spends considerable amount of time in trees; it is able to climb quite well. Not vertical trunks like a cat, but it does manage to climb into trees with lower branches, and it will often rest and even sleep on larger branches.

The gray fox is the most omnivorous of the canids. Its diet varies from prey like small mammals, such as cottontails, mice and rats, to birds, snakes, frogs, and even insects. And during the fall when berries ripen, or when cactus fruits are available, it can take advantage of that food source as well. A report on the stomach contents of 42 gray foxes in Texas revealed that in late summer and fall, persimmons and acorns dominated its diet with 30 percent, insects 26 percent, small mammals 15 percent, crayfish 14 percent, and chicken and quail only once each. The winter food of a similar number of gray foxes included small mammals 56 percent, insects (primarily grasshoppers) 23 percent, and wild birds 21 percent. And because it spends so much in trees, bird eggs would not be ignored.
In Texas, the breeding season begins in February and continues into March. Three to six pups are born in April or May, after a gestation period of about 63 days. Although the pups are born blind and helpless, they grow rapidly and leave the den within a few weeks. They then seek shelter in rocky and brushy areas. It is during this period when the adults are most likely to be seen in the open as they search their neighborhood for food for their growing families. Their weight can increase from a few ounces at birth to 7 to 12 pounds as an adult; there also is a record 19 pounder.

The gray fox must be ever aware of its surroundings, as it often becomes prey to coyotes and bobcats, both predators that occur in the area. In fact, biologists believe that gray fox populations are generally held in check by predation, principally from coyotes. Plus, wild dogs, especially those in packs, also take their share of gray foxes. And gray fox roadkills by vehicles are not unusual.

Although those of us that live outside the cities and towns only occasionally see a gray fox, it is very likely that a pair or a family of these little canids is a local resident. They are most active at dusk and dawn, but they are not limited to the non-daylight hours. Especially this time of year when they must feed hungry youngsters, they can be active during all 24 hours. If you have an opportunity to watch one of these little wild dogs you will appreciate them even more.

51 Comments:

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have noticed two of my local foxes eating berries of a native Chittamwood or Gum Bumelia.

 
At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Mrs. Janice Winzinger said...

Hi Tony,

A gray fox family visits us twice a day, about 9:30-10:30 AM and 7-8:30 PM. Mom brings one or more of the four kits and usually naps while they race around. They've climbed trees to harvest seeds and one youngster made the circuit of our lantanas, carefully picking off seeds.

August 4, 2007
9:15 PM

 
At 11:46 PM, Blogger Eric said...

hey, a gray fox often comes through my back yard from the west around this time every night, I just saw him. I live in south Austin just north of Ben White Blvd so it's very near downtown Austin. I wouldn't have expected to see one here but they are around. Of course, my neighbor has chickens so maybe that's the reason

 
At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have a gray fox roaming the streets of the subdivision. I live in Laredo, TX. It was "sun bathing" all day today on top of my neighbor's tile roof. It's about 10-12 lbs. Have seen it up there before , but only for a few minutes. Seems like it feels comfortable around people, cause I even got some pictures of it napping. No mice around here. Maybe got rid of the possums also. Haven't seen one in a while. Good

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Tommy said...

When I moved into my house a neighbor had commented that there was a local fox that roamed the area and was living in my new yard. We have a good sized yard in the middle of southwest Fort Worth. It's definitly urban but there are a few park around here. However, I was walking into my house about midnight one night and got barked at. After jumping about ten ft in the air I turned and noticed a large gray fox standing at the edge of my back porch. This experience was pretty surreal and matched only by todays experience. I was walking in my back door around 1130am and noticed she was casually stolling around my backyard. I was surprised to see that even in broad daylight she was not startled by my presence. She was about 12-15 lbs, large for a fox I assume. The story only got better though; I walked into my house and was watching her work her way into the trees and low shrubs around my yard when I noticed a kit jump up on my porch. Soon after that two more came out from under the proch and began to wrestle the small shrubs along the edge. They soon went back under the porch before I could get a camera of course. I put some dog food out for them in hopes that we can keep them around. Does anyone have any advice as to what I should do to keep them around and healthy?

 
At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Tony
I live west of Fort Worth on some acreage and cleared out some underbrush and trees this past winter. Now I am seeing a grey fox.I have been watching it come and go for a couple months and recently it came up close to house to eat scraps i throw out. We have a Ginney, that runs around and a cat and a dog. I have heard it will eat a cat is that true? And now i read it will eat chickens. Will a fox eat dog food? I love nature and I do not want to harm animals nor do I want mine harmed.Can I shew it away or can i just enjoy watching this beautiful animal?

 
At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a mama fox and 6 kits living under our storage building just out in the yard. We live outside of Woodbine in north central Texas. She comes up on the front porch and eats cat food. Occasionally she can be seen laying in the shade in the front yard. The kits and she eats both cat and dog food along with whatever table scraps we put out. The kits are fun to watch while they play, tumbling over each other and hissing. We have been as close to her while she nursed the kits as 10 to 15 feet. They are usually out eating and playing between 3 and 5 in the afternoon, as well as other times. Two or three times we have seen the father but he shies away from us. He's not near as friendly as mom.

 
At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw my first gray fox today in Prospect Park in San Marcos. It was great! He looked at us gave a little growl, then walked off behind some vegetation. Its a shame they are planning to build the parkway right through the park.

 
At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex and I have a family of Texas Grays living in my back yard.
My house backs up to a Church parking lot and there are no woody areas around. It's fun watching them, but I don't know if they are good to have around. They have destroyed a flower bed, but that's no biggy. They are as much fun to watch as the flowers were to look at. But should I be concerned about rabies or anything else, besides fleas. My back yard is 2 level and they are living in a drainage pipe in the lower level. I have yet to see them in the upper level next to the house.

 
At 4:25 PM, Blogger jhope said...

Found your blogspot after just witnessing a good sized gray fox in my small backyard. Not sure which one of us was the most surprised ! There is a dry spot below an antique gas stove that is stored there, I think that is where it came from. I first thought it was a stray cat. It burst from its hiding place, climbed the louvered side of my garage evaporative air conditioner like it was a ladder marked "for foxes only" and slinked across the top and onto the roof. It was just a flash but I had a good view of it.
We saw one (maybe the same individual) last week a block away. Last year we saw a family in residence at a building near our small downtown here in Levelland, Texas.
They are a fairly common site in the countryside here on the South Plains but seem very much at home in town.
We're pleasantly surprised to have one that chose to visit us !

 
At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw a grey fox in my yard,I live in the country outside Victoria,first time ever to see one that close.But I have two Mulberry Trees loaded with berries.It just stook there looking at me.Pretty Cool.

 
At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again tonight saw the little fox but this time they were two of them...They were here earlier than last night also....Maybe they will bring the little ones whenthey get big enough...Outside Victoria...

 
At 7:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sister has seen at least 3 fox in the backyard in Katy. She said that they usually are there around 8:45. We are wondering if they will bother dogs, the cat that used to be always there has not been seen for at least a month.

 
At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could not belive my eyes... I was watering my backyard and behold I saw a gray fox crossing my neighbor's yard. It was not afraid of me. I think it was very young by the size of the fox. My daughter and I ran so fast within a flash we was in the house. I was hoping it was not looking for human flesh to eat. I went to the front window to get another look ath the fox and it went through a gate into the woods. This is a new site for homes so I guess we invaded on his home... Lisa J-Houston,TX

 
At 6:11 AM, Blogger Neil said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6:12 AM, Blogger Neil said...

I wake early each morning and "patrol" our 2 acres for animals to see by flashlight. I had seen a pair of eyes reflected in my flashlight beam and then climbing a tree. It was gone before I could find out what it was. At 5:30 A.M. this morning I was startled by a loud "cough" behind me. It was a grey fox. We stared at each other for a while and I moved closer since neither of us was afraid of attack. It barked at me a couple of times and then left. I'm sure it's sleeping in or near that big oak. New Braunfels, TX

 
At 6:12 AM, Blogger Neil said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'll be. I thought I was going crazy. Last night I turned the light on in my back yard as my pups were going crazy and low and behold a Grey Fox. At first I thought it was a rather large cat. Again, tonight the dogs were at the door going crazy!! 11:30 pm Now, two of them. They were not scared, and stayed for about 2-3 to min until they finally jumped a 6ft fence from the ground. They are not small either and had long bodies and tails. I live in a wooded residential area most central in San Antonio, Texas near the Medical Center 410 and I-10. This is a first for me a native of SA TX. Especially in this area.
They are both eating on old rippened dried up preciomons that had fallen on the ground.
Great area to post info.!! Wow!!
CLH

 
At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live east of lake houston park on the east san jac river. see grey foxes at night - about the size of a cat, but a big long tail, as long as their body. they dont seem scared I catch them in my flash light beam. they just detour around me and go on about their business. I've seen what I think is a red fox. has a white stripe on the tail? the city of houston is logging all the trees and buiding roads and gulleys, culverts, draining the wetlands (lake houston park) please, if you care about nature at all, contact tpwd, epa, and houston parks and wildlife. they have no idea how many endangered species they are killng. what can we do? jdieter@twonails.com

 
At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw a gray fox exploring around our place out in the country in Fayette county. Second time we've seen it around our bird feeder. It went into the edge of the woods and appeared to 'play' with something it caught. Really fun to watch. Beautiful animal.

 
At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Janice Winzinger said...

During this past summer (2009) we were again hosts to grey foxes. This was a much smaller family: Lancelot, Guinevere, young Merlin and a sibling who quickly disappeared. They were prettier than our 2007 family. We have photos of Merlin drinking from the small fountain pool in the back yard--will send to anyone interested. Like the 2007 family, they climbed our three persimmon trees and harvested more persimmons than the birds got. I have photos of the tree acrobatics.

 
At 3:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A gray fox was wandering the parking lot of Harris Methodist Southlake Hospital at 1:30 AM on 02/06/2010.

 
At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We noticed a grey fox last year in our back wooded area (we live near Cresson, Texas) and this Spring we saw a pair wandering through the woods. Now one of them comes into our backyard and eats safflower seeds that have been tossed onto the ground by the birds at the feeders. It then jumps up on its back legs, leans against the birdbath and drinks water. It has been appearing in broad daylight, which is surprising since we thought they were nocturnal. The fox doesn't seem to be nervous about us, as we have stepped out onto our porch to take pictures and it just sits and continues eating seeds! Very cute little animals--we are enjoying watching it so much.

 
At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was surprised and pleased to enter the kitchen at my mother-in-laws place in San Antonio the other day and out of the corner of my eye I spot something. It was a grey fox in the backyard eating bread. My mother-in-law is 91 and has never put anything in a garbage disposal. She puts bread out everyday for the birds. The fox has been back and is now the talk of the family. It is a rather large grey fox compared to what I have read on this blog.

 
At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This week as I was driving to work near Manchaca Texas I was distressed to see not one but two dead foxes within a five mile stretch of road. What would account for this?

 
At 4:12 AM, Blogger Gary said...

I have seen a Gray Fox twice here at my home in Amarillo, in Randall County. Only seen this animal in full darkness, with a strong flashlight lighting up its eyes. It does look to me to be a Gray Fox, from what I can gather in the darkness. It could, of course, be a Red Fox, or a Swift Fox, but I'm no expert. Seems odd to be this far North in November, not to mention living in a suburban setting full of cars, kids, dogs, cats, and opossums (!). I do wish I could see this animal in better light, so I could get some photos of it! Thoughts?

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger cherrysugar said...

Have been seeing a fox living in my neighborhood in Pampa,TX This afternoon, my daughter in law and I saw 2 fox come into my yard and go next door to a vacant house. They are beautiful and interesting animals. December 22, 2010. 6:40pm

 
At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're in the country near Canyon Lake, TX and just watched a beautiful gray fox outside our motor home. We saw another on the River Road a couple of years ago.

 
At 5:55 PM, Anonymous tjl said...

Early this AM my two border collies wanted out of the house awful bad, as they often do. What happened next was amazing. At first I thought it was a cat, but they were chasing a fox around our yard. (We have several acres in sparsely settled NW corner of Hays County.) The fox did not seem to be able to get away. The dogs (about 8 years old, and not trained to herd anything except tennis balls) kept cutting its escape off. I wondered if it was sick or weak from hunger here in the dead of winter. This went on for at least a minute (time stood still as I enjoyed this spectacle and wished my wife had her lenses in) before it found a path in the woods far enough from the house that the dogs let up. Only one of the dogs got close enough to snap at it, something a border collie will do when herding if it is frustrated and not well trained. This fox, or perhaps another, has left little evidences of its presence, and what its been eating lately, sometimes right up on the porch, for a couple of years at least. I couldn't help wondering if maybe it was just having a little sport with the dogs (who also go ballistic whenever the coyotes start up.)

 
At 11:08 PM, Blogger Ed said...

My wife and I live on five acres in Hood County. About two weeks ago, in the late evening after dark, we saw something jumping in the grass at the front of out property. Initially thought it was a cat. Turns out it was a gray fox. It was jumping onto something in the grass - - apparently trying to catch dinner. We have since seen him or her in the early evening several times. My neighbor has a wooded area at the front and back of his property and several times we have seen the fox making for the "woods". It does not seem to be anxious about us but it is wary. Have not seen any pups but the woods are relative think with vines and poison ivy and I am not anxious to venture into that area. Fun to watch and glad he or she lives near us. 2011 is the first year we have seen the fox on our property. V/R Ed S.

 
At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We spotted a fox laying on the top of our rocks where are waterfall start at the edge of our property that overlooks the (dry)Brazos River. Tonight she was back in the trees about 20 feet away with her 6 pups. Again she laid on a rock while the youngsters were running around. They would go up to her as though they were kissing on the mouth. Maybe she was feeding..not sure. This was around 7pm and this morning it was a little after 6am. Very cool..

 
At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Bill said...

I have seen one wandering around in the back yard several times in SW Amarillo in past week.


Bill

 
At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last spring I was walking around in the "back 40" of my 15-acre spread and saw a large gray fox running away from me. Within a few minutes, I saw two kits about sixty feet away. I turned and headed back towards the house, since I don't want to disturb the wildlife. I was amazed to see that the kits walked along parallel with me for quite some time, stopping when I stopped, looking at me with their heads cocked to one side. They finally turned back towards what I assume was their den. An incredible experience!

 
At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed that some of you wanted to see more of the Gray fox, and left out food for it. This is probably not the best idea. if the fox becomes habituated to humans, it will wander too close to people. The tameness will be seen as aggression , or unusual behavior in the animal..and someone will shoot it. The fox is safer if he is wary. If a female is denning under your deck, simply leave her alone, and consider yourself lucky that you have a fox to observe in such close proximity.

 
At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We live in the city of Belton. We have had 2 sightings of the gray fox twice this week. Our yard has a 6 ft. high fence with no trees. He scales it in his departure with ease. Evidently he has a den nearby. We have a small dog, so we will try to capture it and relocate it with the help of Animal Control. We do not want to harm the fox in any way.

 
At 8:07 AM, Anonymous yatesspain.blogspot.com said...

This can't succeed in reality, that is what I think.

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw a gray fox on our front walk way at 9:30 AM (July 28, 2012) in South Austin (Oakhil)l area. We have been having a lot of the black squirrels around sure hope the fox is going to take care of them.

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Joni of Bandera said...

This morning about 7:00am, was my first opportunity to see one of these beautiful creatures. I watched as it smelled around one of the cedar trees in the back yard. Then it climbed the tree and just sat there while the sun came out. He jumped down when I opened the door to take his picture, turned as to say this is my good side, let me take the picture, then off into the woods.

 
At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

28Apr13

Just a few moments ago, my 90 y/o mother called me to report two furry creatures she found eating the fruit of her Loquat Tree.

She described the animals, and they must certainly have been the common grey fox.

She watched them for a long while out of fascination.

I told her to bring her kitties in just in case the foxes wanted a little mammalian snack.

True omnivores.

 
At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just caught one of my foxes eating out of the cat bowl, with the cat sitting in the chair, watching from 5 feet away. I think it was a young one, since its tail was not very bushy and it was smaller. Saw the adult one today in the middle of the afternoon. They do not seem to bother the cats, rather coexist... Still, its good to have the cats in at night! I live in Fort Worth and have had foxes living here for the past five years or so. Beautiful animals.

 
At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grey fox alert. We live 2 miles from downtown Austin on the east side. Lucky for us we have a nice thick buffer of undesturbed green vegetation on private property that will be around for a long time. I just saw my furry friend for the 2nd time just roaming around looking for food. He seems very comfortable being so close to human contact, I hope he sticks around.

 
At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Patty said...

A Grey Fox was drinking from water I keep out for the birds (right by my patio) when I got up Friday morning. We have a 6' privacy fence, but a little more than a year ago one was in our back yard & when my son opened the door, the Fox went over the fence as if it were not there. Need to keep my camera by the bay window, as I was not able to get a picture. I live in Odessa.

 
At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We live on a ranch about 50 miles NW of Austin. For the past several years we have seen a gray fox around. We started calling the fox "her" without being sure. She made the rounds of our bird feeders picking up seeds the birds knocked out - particularly likes the high oil content sunflower seeds. Then about 3 years ago, we realized we could ID her by a notch on her right ear. Last year, we discovered she had kits - we could clearly see 3 tits sucked. My husband saw her moving the 3 kits when the were still fluff-balls. We started putting out cat food for her - they are actually more cat-like than dog-like in many ways. She loves it and visits us regularly last year and this when the kits are first born until the point she has to teach them to hunt for game. Then she disappears again for the most part (and we stop putting out cat food for her) until the next spring. My brother who managed a state park reported the same behavior pattern with a fox near their headquarters who they fed. This year she has at least 4 kits and is REALLY used to us. She just sits on the grass and waits for us to put down her food dish. I can go on the porch within 8-10 feet of her and she ignores me.

 
At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ranch NW of Austin again - available water is really important to the fox as well as other wildlife we see. We keep out a tub of water as well as a running fountain. The fox uses both. We went on vacation for 3 weeks and she started pulling the door open on the fountain to get to the reservoir of water in the base by the time we returned.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger Tay3473 said...

I live in Universal City, TX. Last night at approximately !:30PM, I was looking out a window fronting our front yard. Out of the blue, a grey fox traversed the yard directly below the window. It was rather large but a beautiful specimen with a furry, bushy tail.

 
At 8:00 PM, Blogger Jenni Sandlin said...

I live in Amarillo Tx and two small foxes have taken up residence in the back yard. They look pretty young. Probably spring kits. They are really pretty. Only thing I worry about is I live next to a very busy street.

 
At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Amarillo Texas. Two foxes have taken up residence in my back yard. They look fairly young. Maybe spring kits. They are really pretty. My only worry is that I live close to a very busy street.

 
At 1:00 AM, Blogger Kasey Wright said...

I just spotted two foxes ( possibly gray foxes) roaming through my apartment complex in Midland, Texas. I was on my porch and looked below to see the pair walking across the lawn from above. I thought they were cats at first. Pretty crazy! But very interesting!

 
At 10:47 PM, Blogger Jannie Funster said...

We have a momma fox and at least 2 kits living in our backyard! From her woodpile perch she proudly watched them frolic under the palms and pittosporums this morning. They must really love our property's vibe to be here. Feeling very happy about this.

 
At 10:48 PM, Blogger Jannie Funster said...

We're in Austin, in semi-suburbia.

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger roxanne.clarkson said...

We have a fox that strolls through our backyard every night around 8:50. You could almost set your watch to it. We live on a small lake in Arlington & have frequent visits from coyote & other wildlife. I have really enjoyed watching this little fox though!

 

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