Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County

Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at .

 Recently, a Red Fox skipped through my yard looking for one of the squirrels that frequent our feeders.  That visit made me think of how many different foxes we have here in Wisconsin.

After some research, I learned that we have two members of the fox family:  the Red Fox and the Gray Fox.  Both are furbearer species in Wisconsin.  Furbearer means their fur has commercial value.

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) characteristics:

  • reddish fur and a bushy tail that often has a white tip
  • there are different color phases a red fox goes through, including black, silver, and a cross between red and silver.
  • lower part of the legs is usually black
  • about 3-3 ½ feet in length, slinky and long-legged, they only weigh 9-12 pounds full grown
  • eat small mammals, rabbits, squirrels, and birds
  • tend to be solitary and do not form packs like wolves
  • individuals and family groups have main earthen dens and often other emergency burrows in the home range. The same den is often used over a number of generations
  • adaptable and can be found in rural, suburban, and urban areas.
  • live throughout Wisconsin
  • in Wisconsin there is a restricted trapping season on red foxes and a license is required
  • the red fox lifespan is on average 3 years in the wild
  • eat between 1-2 pounds of food each day

Gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) characteristics:

  • smallest canine found in Wisconsin
  • gray fur with white on the chin and throat with a brown underside
  • black stripe down the top of their tail and do not have the white tip on the tail like red foxes
  • unique in that they have semi-retractable claws that allow them to climb trees. They are one of the only two canine species in the world that possess this characteristic.
  • tend to prefer wooded areas since they can climb trees to escape predators
  • more common in southern Wisconsin
  • in Wisconsin there is a limited trapping season on gray foxes that require the appropriate license.
  • the gray fox is primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, but is occasionally observed during broad daylight
  • considered to be more social than the red fox (and the artic fox) because only the gray fox exhibits allogrooming (social grooming)