Although this species of fox is among the most prevalent in North America, it may not be as well-known as its red-colored cousin. Due to the gray fox’s nocturnal habits and stealthy nature, humans rarely see these animals, yet they have some incredible environmental adaptations. Some locations may be forcing them closer to people because of habitat loss. But are there gray foxes in Texas?
Texas, with a population of 29 million, is one of the largest states in the United States. This incredibly diverse topography supports more than 800 habitat types, which supports an enormous variety of endemic fauna. The state is no stranger to foxes and wolves, but although not as popular as its red counterpart, gray foxes are also a valuable find in the Lone Star State. Below, we will discuss the gray foxes found in Texas, where they live, and other interesting facts.
Are There Gray Foxes in Texas?
The central Texas Hill Country is home to many predators, but the gray fox is one of the most intriguing among them. While the red fox is the most popular fox found in the entire world, it is dethroned in Texas by its gray cousin. Red foxes are not native to the state, and in Texas, the native gray fox is the variety that can be found most frequently anywhere. They have reddish hair on their chest, legs, and ears, gray hair on their back, and a black tip on their tail. Although gray foxes can be found in various environments, forests and other places with trees seem to be the most abundant.
Although it is still present in the eastern United States, where it was historically the most common fox, human development and deforestation have made the red fox the most frequent fox-like canid. The gray fox is still the most common in the Pacific States and Great Lakes.
Where Do Gray Foxes in Texas Live?
Gray foxes are particularly prevalent in the Post Oak Savannah, Edwards Plateau regions, and Cross Timbers and Prairies, where they live in upland and bottomland communities. They appear to benefit from human-made habitat margins, such as woodland borders produced by the prevalent practice of removing small, irregular portions for pastures or croplands. They also live in cities, feeling almost at home there as they do in their natural surroundings. Almost any area with significant amounts of tree, rock, or brush cover will support the gray fox. High population densities can be found near bluffs covered in vegetation.
Although gray foxes prefer rock crevices, subterranean burrows, hollow logs, and even a good, undisturbed brush pile, they have also been seen denning with pups in the hollow of a tree. Only two canine family members can climb trees, and one of them is the gray fox. They are arboreal, requiring a place to live amid trees, implying that they can climb trees and do so. They will make their dens in trees and other structures, like caves or spaces between rocky outcrops.
The natural range of the gray fox extends from Colombia and Venezuela in the south to Canada in the north. They primarily reside in Mexico and the United States, excluding the mountainous northwest. They usually favor rivers or stream banks.
What Do Gray Foxes Look Like?
The gray fox shares several well-known traits with other fox species, including a long body, a bushy tail, and large, upright ears. It can be distinguished from the well-known red fox by its comparatively short legs, a more cat-like muzzle, somewhat retractable claws, and larger skull ridges. As the name implies, this species’ silvery gray fur coat is its most distinctive characteristic. Along with white on its face and legs, a black stripe runs the tail length, and there are patches of red around its chest and sides.
The gray fox is comparable in size to a small domestic dog such as the beagle or the bulldog and weighs between 7 and 14 pounds. The tail often adds another 10 inches to the length of the body, which is typically 2 feet long. Except for their evident sexual differences, male and female foxes are physically identical, though males are slightly larger.
What Do Gray Foxes in Texas Eat?
Being omnivorous is one of the more fascinating things about the gray fox that many people might not be aware of. They mostly eat rabbits, mice, rats, birds, and insects (including grasshoppers and butterflies). Unlike their red fox cousin, they are less likely to invade chicken coops. They rely even more on fruits like berries and apples with a combination of certain nuts and grains when the weather is warm. They have no qualms about consuming dead carrion that other predators have left behind if nothing else is available. The gray fox is crucial for maintaining rodent populations.
What Predators Threaten the Population of Gray Foxes in Texas?
The gray fox is a skilled survivor with few predators and dangers in the wild. Although humans have historically hunted it for fun and its pelt quality, the short coat and coarse texture make it less desirable than the red fox’s softer fur. Golden eagles, great-horned owls, bobcats, and coyotes are the main predators of gray foxes. By hiding underground or even climbing trees, they avoid predators.
Another potential danger is that some locations may experience a decline in the amount of tree or bush cover that offers the fox safety. Fortunately, the amount of woodland in the United States is largely steady or growing, but local destruction may cause some gray fox subspecies’ habits to change.
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