Foxes in North Dakota: Types and Where They Live

fox laying in the leaves
RT Images/

Written by Nilani Thiyagarajah

Published: April 30, 2023

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Many people find foxes scary and intimidating. However, the truth is that foxes are pretty small and don’t tend to harm humans. Also, in most areas, they tend to be right in people’s backyards. It’s always a good idea to know if there are foxes in your area. If you live in the state of North Dakota, you might want to know what types of foxes live in your state. Keep reading to learn about the two types of foxes living in North Dakota!

The Two Types of Foxes in North Dakota

There may be other fox species in North Dakota, but the only two with significant populations in this state are the red and gray fox.

1. Red Fox

The red fox can be spotted throughout the state of North Dakota. However, they tend to have larger populations east of the Missouri River. In addition to North Dakota, these foxes inhabit the entire continental United States, between Alaska and Florida. They inhabit open areas, such as brushy fields, wetlands, woodlands, and human neighborhoods.

These foxes have reddish fur on their faces, sides, backs, and tails. However, they have some grayish-white on their undersides. In addition, they have large, pointy ears and long snouts. Most of the time, they are approximately two feet tall and three feet long. They weigh between 6.6 and 30.9 pounds, with males being a bit larger than females.

Red foxes are fairly solitary and do not live in packs. Typically, the range for these animals will be occupied by one adult male and one or two adult females with their young. They communicate with one another using vocalizations, facial expressions, and scent marking.

These foxes tend to eat smaller animals, with a preference for rabbits and rodents. However, they will also eat amphibians, birds, and fruit. They are also known to steal food from farms and garbage bins. These foxes are known to be very intelligent and cunning.

Predators don’t typically eat red foxes unless they are young pups. Adults may have to deal with attacks from predators such as coyotes and wolves, but these animals typically don’t eat them. Humans are the worst predators of red foxes, typically either seeing them as pests and killing them or hunting them for their fur.

red fox wandering in field

The red fox has beautiful reddish-orange fur making it one of the most lovely orange animals.

2. Gray Fox

The gray fox is not very common in North Dakota, but there have been sightings in counties within the eastern two-thirds of the state. Gray foxes typically avoid urban areas and prefer secluded places. Their range consists of the area between southern Canada and northern Venezuela, although they don’t inhabit the northwestern United States.

Gray foxes typically inhabit ridges and rocky canyons. However, you can also find them in wooded areas, grasslands, and open desert areas.

As adults, gray foxes can be about 47 inches long and weigh between 6 and 15 pounds. They typically stand 12 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder. They are known for salt and pepper coloring on their bodies, with black markings on their muzzles, heads, and noses. Gray foxes also have a signature black stripe down the middle on their tails. They have black-tipped tails.

Gray foxes are omnivores and opportunistic foragers. They will eat any available meat, including insects. Gray foxes also eat insects and lizards. They will also eat any fruit or vegetable that they find. Their preferred foods are cottontail rabbits and other small mammals. They sometimes raid garbage cans as well when looking for food.

Gray foxes are the only members of the dog family that are able to climb trees. They do this either to sleep, to find prey, or to escape from predators. Their strong, hooked claws make it possible for them to do this.

Predators of gray foxes include eagles, hawks, bobcats, owls, cougars, coyotes, and humans. Humans kill them for their fur.

Mysterious Gray Animals - Gray Fox

Grey fox with orange-red fur highlights, prominently displaying its tail. These gray animals are one of the few foxes that can climb trees.

Telling Apart the Red Fox and Gray Fox

The red fox and gray fox can be easily confused as they share similar ranges and habitats. Also, they can look somewhat alike. Many red foxes have large gray patches, and vice versa. However, one signature characteristic of the red fox is the fluffy tail with a white tip. This is one of the best ways to tell it apart from the gray fox, which has a black-tipped tail.

It is legal to own a fox in North Dakota. However, if you own one, you must possess the appropriate license. Red and gray foxes (along with swift foxes and kit foxes) are classified as Category 2 Nontraditional Livestock in the state. Owners of these animals need to have nontraditional livestock licensure. Category 2 animals are either protected species or species that may pose some sort of risk to humans or other animals.

Are Foxes Dangerous?

Foxes are not dangerous to humans. They may be dangerous to smaller animals, so if you have small pets, keeping them away from foxes would be a good idea. Adult cats are about the same size as foxes and can easily defend themselves, so they are not in danger from foxes.

However, kittens may be in danger, as can chickens, guinea pigs, and rabbits. Most foxes will not attack a dog unless the dog has posed some threat to their offspring.

Foxes are omnivores. They usually eat very small animals, and they forage for food. Foxes often gravitate towards cities with freely available garbage. They are usually shy around people and will run away if they see them.

If a fox approaches you and doesn’t seem scared of you, it is no reason to panic. Most likely, someone has been feeding them, and they have learned to associate humans with food. They are likely not looking to attack you in any way.

Typically, foxes will only attack humans if they have rabies. This is a very rare occurrence. If you capture and handle them, they may also become aggressive in self-defense.

Fox Teeth- A Fox

If a fox approaches you and doesn’t seem scared of you, it is no reason to panic. They are likely not looking to attack you in any way.

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