North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Gray Fox

Scientific Name: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Classification: Game Species  
Abundance: Common throughout state

Species Profile (PDF)

     
Photo: Mark Buckler

Additional Information

Though both the red fox and the gray fox live in North Carolina today, the gray fox is the state’s only native fox species. Red foxes were brought here from Europe by fox hunters in the early 1700s. Even though storytellers and writers have depicted the red fox as cunning, intelligent and shrewd, the gray fox appears to be winning the survival contest in areas where coyotes have expanded in recent years. As coyotes become more abundant and expand their range into areas inhabited by both red and gray foxes, red foxes are sometimes displaced, while gray fox populations do not seem to be affected. Since gray foxes have the ability to climb trees, it is possible that they are able to escape from coyotes.

The gray fox is slightly smaller than the red fox and is much darker in overall coloration. Gray foxes are sometimes confused with red foxes because of a reddish or rusty coloration on the sides of their necks and on their legs. The overall coloration is best described as a salt and pepper gray with a dark streak extending down the back, along the top of the tail and ending in a black tail tip. Adults may weigh as much as a red fox (7 to 15 pounds) but their shorter legs and shorter fur make them appear smaller. The most obvious sign of the presence of gray foxes is tracks that are similar to domestic cat tracks, except gray fox tracks have claw marks. Since gray foxes are more adapted to warmer climates than red foxes, there is little or no fur between the toe and foot pads, resulting in a more distinct track than that left by red foxes.
Learn more by reading the Gray Fox wildlife profile.

The gray fox is considered a game species.

Fox seasons by county

Controlled Hunting Preserve Operator License - Fox

 

Most conflicts that occur between people and gray foxes involve depredation on domestic poultry and concerns about diseases, such as rabies. Properly enclosed poultry in a secure pen and house, coupled with good husbandry practices, can prevent depredations. While gray foxes can contract rabies, interactions between people and gray foxes are rare. While the presence of gray foxes in a neighborhood is not cause for concern, people should still stay a respectful distance from gray foxes and all wildlife.

Coexisting with Foxes (PDF)