Mammals of Pennsylvania and New Jersey




Background Information

Foxes are part of the dog family. They are well known chicken thieves. That is why farmers set traps to catch foxes. Besides humans, foxes have few enemies. However, a bobcat or coyote can be seen feasting on a fox. They can be found throughout much of the United States.

Physical Features

Grey and red foxes are the same size. They are about 2 feet in length. Their bushy tails can add one foot to their overall length. The fur of gray foxes is not all gray. They have reddish fur along the entire underside of their bodies.

The fur of the red fox is not all red. They have white fur on their chests and stomachs and on the tips of their tails. Their feet and legs have black fur. They have pointed noses and short dog-like ears

Life Cycle

Foxes mate in the late winter. It takes the babies about two months to develop. From 2-7 pups are born blind in a den and weigh about 3 ounces. Their den could be a hollow log or tree trunk, or holes among the rocks. Mother provides milk for her young for 4-6 weeks.

After that time, father brings food to the entire family. Mother teaches her young how to hunt. The family stays together for about 5 months. Then, the young leave the den to mark off their own areas. Foxes live about 6 years in the wild and 12 years in a zoo.


When it comes time to leave their dens, foxes mark off an area of land with their urine and other body wastes. This smell tells other foxes to stay out of its area.

The red fox hunts on farmlands and forests with open area. The red fox is active through the year. It can be seen mostly in the early morning or late afternoon.

The grey fox is a very shy creature. It generally lives alone. It is a very unusual dog in that it can climb trees. It often rests, feeds, or hides in trees. In trees, the grey fox can leap from branch to branch with ease. However, on the ground, the grey fox is slower than the red fox and must use camouflage to catch its prey.


Both kinds of foxes hunt alone. They are omnivores. That means that their food diet can be meat (live or dead), fruits, insects, and eggs. They prey mostly upon smaller mammals such as mice, rats, chipmunks, rabbits, or squirrels. They will also attack birds and eat eggs. The grey fox hunts during the night but the red fox hunts during daylight hours.


  © Dr. Randall Pellow, 2005