Monday, October 20, 2014

Florida Foxes

Two different types of fox call Floridian nature home the common red fox and the grey fox. We have at least one red fox that lives in the woods behind our house and I can often hear her "yips".
The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has the appearance of a small dog and weighs from 10 to 15 pounds and measures up to 2 feet long with another foot for a bushy tail. The end of the tail is black, tipped with white. The Red Fox is most commonly a rusty red, with white underbelly, black ear tips and legs, and a bushy tail usually with a distinctive white tip. The "red" tone can vary from dark chestnut to golden. Because the gray fox  frequently has quite a lot of red hair, it may be confused with the red fox. The red fox is essentially a nocturnal animal, but it occasionally feeds during the day, and more at dawn and dusk.

The red fox is probably not native to Florida except in the northern Panhandle. It has been introduced by hunting clubs, and is now found in many areas of the state. The red fox is normally found in uplands mixed with fields and weedy pastures. Unlike the gray fox it avoids heavily wooded areas.

Because the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) frequently has quite a lot of red hair, it may be confused with the red fox, and is sometimes referred to as a "red-sided gray". The adult gray fox may weigh from 7 to 13 pounds and measure up to 40 inches including a 12 inch tail. The female is slightly smaller than the male. The hair along the middle of the back and tail is tipped in black and has the appearance of a black mane. The face, sides, back, and tail are gray, while the under parts are white and the sides of the neck and underside of the tail a rusty-yellow color. The gray fox is essentially a nocturnal animal, and while seldom recognized, it has a yapping bark. The gray fox sometimes referred to as the "tree fox" can scramble-up a tree quickly, and is the only member of the dog family capable of climbing.

Not related to the fox at all, the Florida fox squirrel will make you take a double take if you aren't used to seeing them. In our area they seem to love hanging out at the golf courses, especially the one in Rainbow Lakes Estates. The fox squirrel is found in pinelands through out Florida, except for the Keys and perhaps Dade and Broward Counties. The fox squirrel – named for its striking fox-like tail - is the largest squirrel in the western hemisphere. Weighing in at about 1 kg, it is about twice the size of a gray squirrel. Fox squirrels are highly variable in color, and their coats can be anywhere from creamy tan to all black. Fox squirrels prefer open park-like habitats with scattered mature pine trees and an open understory. In some parts of southwest Florida fox squirrels are quite abundant on golf courses that have retained patches of open pine-oak forest. Fox squirrels use tree cavities for sleeping quarters and birth dens, but they also construct large leaf nests and stick nests in some areas. They are solitary, except during the breeding season, during which time mating chases sometimes occur..

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