Wild Profile: Meet the grey fox

A grey fox perched in a tree By Evelyn D. Harrison/Shutterstock

Most cottagers can ID the red fox, but what about the grey fox? Though it looks similar to its more-widespread cousin, it’s easy to confuse the two species. (Red foxes don’t always look red, and grey foxes don’t always look grey.) Hint: red foxes always have a white tail tip; grey foxes have a stockier build and a black tail tip or black stripe. They also have shorter muzzles, and rounder paw prints.

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But another, more glaring and dramatic difference? Grey foxes are excellent, cat-like tree climbers. In fact, they’re the only canid species in North America that can do this. That means they can hunt and den in the canopy. Neat-o! Unfortunately, all this arboreal skill hasn’t prevented the grey fox from being listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk act. (At one point it was considered extirpated until there were reports of it again in the 1890s.) The species’ current range in Canada is Manitoba to northwestern Ontario and southern Ontario to southeastern Quebec.

Grey foxes are more shy and secretive than red foxes. This is one reason why it’s hard for experts and researchers to get a clear sense of their population numbers these days. Or what caused the decline in the first place. Just like red foxes, they can eat a varied diet—everything from small mammals to plant matter. They also have the same threats as red foxes: getting hit by a vehicle; accidental trapping; disease; bigger mammal predators.

If you do spot a grey fox in Ontario—high five! And then report the sighting to the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry.

This rare and enigmatic bird is hard to spot


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