Monday, November 17, 2008

Gray Fox Seen in Mason, Manistee Counties

Gray Fox
Gary Fox
photo credit Gregg Heimall
by Joan H. Young

Although the red fox is much more commonly seen in Eastern woodlands, dotted with openings and fields, its gray cousin has been spotted recently in the local area.

Oddly enough, I saw one in Manistee myself on the same day that an article appeared in the Ludington Daily News about one being seen in Amber Township, in the Hidden Forest development near the US 10&31 interchange.

The sighting of the Mason County fox, pictured above, occurred at about 11:30 am, when the gray fox wandered through the residential area. It was observed by several people. Dan Rohde, nuisance wildlife trapper, was called. Rohde said the animal appeared to be healthy. It eventually wandered off after visiting a garage and taking a nap.

I spotted my gray fox at dusk, near the Lake Bluff Audubon House in Manistee, north of Orchard Beach State Park. When I mentioned it to the caretaker, Rich Krieger, he replied, "Oh, yeah, we have a family of them that live here."

To be honest, this was all new to me. I've only been familiar locally with the sleek and sly red fox. The gray fox is more likely to be found in wooded areas or swamps, whereas the red fox likes to hunt in open fields. Reds den up in dirt burrows, grays like rocky dens, but in the East will often choose the base and roots of a hollow tree for a home.

Both types are omnivores, eating both meat and plants. Foxes, in fact, will eat almost anything: birds and their eggs, snakes, mice, rats, acorns, berries and fruit, grasshoppers and crickets.

A significant difference is that the gray fox can and will climb trees. Occasionally it will do this to forage for food, more often to find a safe place to rest.
Red Fox
Red Fox at Orchard Beach SP 2007
photo credit Joan Young

The gray fox is usually a bit smaller than a red fox, and the one pictured above is a very typical coloration. They are gray above and reddish below with patches of white at the the throat, chest, and around the eyes. The tail has a black stripe running the length of the upper side. Gray foxes have black-tipped tails, while reds have a white-tipped tail.

To be honest, when I first spotted the one I saw, I thought it was a cat because of the size and the way it held its tail. However, when it moved, and trotted under a yard light, I realized that it was a small fox, in a color pattern that I did not recognize.

Any wild animal acting normally should be left alone. As long as it does not appear to be ill, and is not acting in a threatening manner, just enjoy the chance you have to observe a creature of the wild.

See Gray Fox at NatureWorks.
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1 comment:

ethanINOSENTE said...

"Gray foxes have black-tipped tails, while reds have a white-tipped tail. "

Thank you very much, if you didn't pointed out the difference, I wont be able to notice it, I was thinking that gray fox was just like a dirty red fox. :)

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