Foxes of Wisconsin

Photo by Ruth Forsgren – Gray fox kits at den near youth camp driveway

Article by Jim Schwiebert, Beaver Creek Reserve Naturalist

Wisconsin is home to two members of the fox family: the red fox and the gray fox. Both types of foxes are about the same size. Gray fox average 10 pounds and are between 32 and 45 inches long. The gray fox is a mix of gray, red, white, and black fur. The hairs along the middle of the back and tail are tipped in black. Sometimes if a gray has a lot of red fur it can be mistaken for a red fox. But, gray fox never have black feet like red fox do, and they also have a black tip to the tail instead a white tip like the red fox.

Gray foxes are not usually seen as often as red fox. Gray fox live in older, thick-forested areas, often near streams and rivers. Red fox are more often found on edges of fields, where they are more visible. Gray fox are more nocturnal (active at night) than red fox. Gray fox make dens from a hollowed tree, rock crevice, or brush pile. They eat a variety of foods including rabbits, mice, vole, chipmunk, eggs, insects, and fruit.

Gray fox are the only fox that can climb trees. They have semi-retractable claws, which means that they can pull their claws partway in somewhat like a cat. The gray fox climb trees to get away from predators like coyotes, to look for food, and sometimes to sleep. Gray fox are also good swimmers.
Gray fox usually have four to five pups that are born in the den in late March or April. The pups are blind at birth and have brown fur. Both mom and dad help with raising the pups.

If you are snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the woods this winter, you may be lucky enough to see one of our state’s two members of the fox family, or some of their tracks