Posts Tagged ‘difference between a kit fox and a gray fox’

This old gray fox has seen a few battles:

For some reason, the person who took this photo thinks this animal is a kit fox.

This is not at trivial error. Kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis) are true foxes that are very closely related to swift foxes (V. velox).  Both are closely related to arctic foxes (V. lagopus, fomerly Alopex lagopus).

Although gray foxes (Urocyon cineroargenteus) look like foxes and are called foxes in the English language, they aren’t foxes at all.

They are actually an offshoot of the canid lineage that has no close relatives, save the Island fox (U. littoralis), which may be a subspecies of the gray fox.  This lineage split off from the rest of the extant canids 9 to 10 million years ago.

The best way to tell these two species apart, which have an overlapping range, is to look at the tail. Gray foxes have a ridge of black hair on the dorsal surface of their tails, which they can raise when alarmed. Further, gray foxes have a lot more gray on them than kit foxes, but this feature can vary with each individual fox. And if you’re seeing only one fox, you really can’t make a comparison.

Kit foxes don’t have a strip of black hair running down the dorsal surface of their tails.

Gray foxes have a ridge of black hair running down the dorsal surface of their tails. No other species of fox on the North American mainland has this feature.

Grays also have a very distinct head, which is broader than all the Vulpes foxes. The muzzle also  isn’t nearly as slender and pointed.

The old fox in the top photo has likely seen a few battles over territory.

Life in nature isn’t quite as nice as the Disney specials implied.

Several battles, and his ears won’t even stand up anymore!

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