Multiple Gray Fox Sightings in Marin County

Eager to venture beyond their dens, gray fox kits born in the spring have been making themselves known to Marin County residents. The sightings are noteworthy as gray foxes tend toward seclusion. San Rafael based WildCare has received over two dozen phone calls from concerned citizens in the last three weeks alone.

Gray foxes have a broad range that extends from Canada to South America. They have been in California for at least the last 3 million years. They breed from January to March and generally have four kits (pups) per litter. The kits start to forage at around four months old. Increased sightings of this shy fox are not surprising in the wake of last winter’s record rainfall in California, which increased food supplies for both the foxes and their prey. They are easily recognized by their grey backs, tan bellies and black-tipped tails. Their rare ability to climb trees allows them to more easily feed on fruits, birds and eggs. They have even been known to eat corn. They are the most omnivorous of the canids.

Although gray foxes are the most common type of fox in California, it is rare to see them as they are reclusive in nature and nocturnal. They are most often seen at dawn and dusk. They normally rest during daylight hours. The increased activity of young gray foxes in the late spring and early summer probably accounts for the recent increase in sightings. Their preferred habitat is deciduous woodlands, but gray foxes are known to inhabit a huge variety of habitats including coastal shrublands, prairies, suburbs and cities. Precise estimates of gray fox populations statewide do not exist.

If you do encounter a gray fox, there is no cause for alarm. They are very unlikely to attack humans or larger pets like cats or dogs. Small pets, such as rabbits or chickens, may fall prey to marauding foxes. Conversely, dogs are a definite threat to gray foxes and are responsible for the death of many fox kits. Like any wild animal, gray foxes may attack if they feel threatened or cornered, especially if they are protecting their young. There have been very few documented complaints against gray foxes in California and even fewer reports of aggression. Having gray foxes in the neighborhood has the added benefit of keeping rodent populations in check.



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