Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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THE GRAY FOX has a widespread distribution in the foothills of California, and for the most part is a brush inhabitant, being found largely in the chaparral and manzanita belts. This animal is of medium size, slender streamlined design, and predominantly gray in color, with a distinct black strip extending along the top of the tail and ending in a broad black tip. It has small, sharply pointed ears, relatively short legs, and a tail more than half the length of the body. Its total length is about 37 inches; tail, 15-1/2 inches.

The back of the species is covered with a thick coat of rather coarse gray hairs, many of which have black tips. The under parts are rusty brown, changing to white on the throat, chin, and front surface of the legs.

The gray fox of California is an important fur bearer, not because its fur is extremely valuable but rather because of its wide distribution and the relatively large number trapped each year.

There is no question but that these foxes do catch an occasional quail. However, at Ash Mountain in Sequoia National Park, where there is an unusual concentration of gray foxes, the covey of quail living in the same area has continued to maintain its numbers. On an experimental range in the foothills of San Joaquin Valley—the heart of the gray fox and quail country—a recent examination showed that approximately four times as many quail nests and eggs were destroyed by ground squirrels as by gray foxes. Therefore, since the gray fox is an important enemy of the ground squirrel and other rodents which not only destroy quail eggs but also compete seriously with these game birds for food, it would seem that, by keeping down the rodents, the foxes are beneficial rather than harmful to the valley quail.

In catching these rodents, it is obvious that foxes must hunt during the hours the mice and squirrels are most active. However, the foxes' activities are not restricted to nocturnal hours; frequently they are found abroad early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

A trapper in San Diego County, Calif., caught 18 gray foxes in an area covering less than 3 square miles. He said the foxes had congregated about a small ranch, where they were attracted by the numerous rats, mice, gophers, and other rodents that were feeding on the rancher's growing grain.


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Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010