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Something foxy around here

We don’t think much about foxes in coastal Alabama, ones not in bikinis anyway, because we don’t see them very often. But, just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they are not around.

There are two species of fox in Alabama the red (Vulpes vulpes) and the gray (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) of the family Canidae. The red fox is the smaller of two with an adult weighing in from six to 16 pounds. The gray fox is a little larger animal tipping the scales at around 12 to 28 pounds.

You’d think by the name red fox that they would be a consistent red color but they’re not. The color of a red fox ranges from pale yellow red to a deep red-brown on top and dull white or gray on the bottom. There are two color variants – the silver fox and the cross fox. A silver fox will go from bright silver to nearly black. The cross fox is the classic red-brown but has stripes – one down the back and another across it. Hence the common name cross fox. These two color variants make up to a maximum of 25% of all red foxes.

The gray fox isn’t as flashy as its red cousin with gray on the back, red-brown legs, pale yellow sides with white throat, cheeks and lower stomach area.

Both the red and gray fox are omnivores. Their diet is mostly made up of rodents, rabbits, insects, acorns, fruit and other wild vegetation. Sometimes they will even try carrion if they are hungry enough. If our garbage cans are left out overnight they will sometimes pop in for a quick snack.

The gray fox is strongly nocturnal and keeps to its den during the day. It likes thick brush in deeply wooded areas. The gray fox’s den can be a burrow in the ground, hollow stump or hole in a tree.

The red fox will take over an old woodchuck hole and modify it to suit its needs. When digging its own den it prefers a loose sandy soil. This is why before hurricane Ivan we had several dens in the dunes along the front beach.

The red fox like the gray is active at night but it also moves at dusk (crepuscular) and dawn. This is why if you see a fox the odds are very good that it is a red fox and not a gray.

Bicycling at dawn around south Baldwin County during spring and summer months I have seen red foxes on the move every few days. In ten years of dawn biking I have only seen one gray fox and that was on county road 20.

Think Global – Act Local!

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