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Posts Tagged ‘tree climbing fox’

I came across this page featuring taxidermy mounts that were being offered in Craig’s List. It features an American mink and a western coyote, which are all fairly interesting animals.

However, when I scrolled to the bottom of the page, I noticed a problem.

This item is listed as a “kit fox” (Vulpes macrotis). However, it very obviously is not a kit fox or a swift fox (Vulpes velox) either.

Two reasons clearly suggest that it is not even a vulpine fox at all.

First of all, it is nearly uniformly gray in color, with tan or reddish hair in only a few places on the body. Both kit and swift foxes have significant amounts of tan on their bodies. The legs of this animal are almost totally gray.

In another photo, it appears to have a ridge of  black hair running down the length of its tail.

The only wild dogs that have this trait are the two Urocyon gray foxes. The mainland gray fox shares some kit fox range in the Southwestern US, so one can easily see how the two could be confused with each other.

Here’s a clear image of a kit fox’s tail– just to show they don’t have that black stripe down their tails:

Urocyon foxes are not true foxes, but the represent a unique lineage of New World canids that has retained some primitive traits– most notably, they have the ability to climb trees.

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Oh. Before I forget, the stripe of hair that runs down the gray fox’s tail can actually be raised like a hackle whenever the fox is aroused.

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It’s not the wolf. It’s not the coyote. It’s not the dingo or the New Guinea Singing dog. Not the Carolina dog either.

It’s the Grey Fox! This primitive species of wild dog is found from the US Canadian border (Southern Ontario, Southern Manitoba, and the southernmost Eastern Townships of Quebec– all of these at low densities) south to Colombia and Venzuela. It is the only North American wild dog to live also in South America, unless you are one of those people who thinks that Panama is South American, because it once was a province of Colombia. If that’s the case, the Coyote also appears on both continents, but most of us think of Panama as part of the North American continent.

Here’s a video of a family mousing or eating grasshoppers in a meadow in Pennsylvania:

These foxes are not really true foxes. They may actually be the oldest of all wild dog species. They still can climb trees and regularly do so. The similarly ancient and primitive racoon dog (Marderhund) or tanuki is also able to climb trees.

In the Eastern US, grey foxes live in denser woodlands than the red foxes do. Red foxes were actually quite rare in the US before European settlement. In fact, they may have only existed in the northern tier of states or even farther north. When the English settled Virginia, the new rich from the tobacco trade tried to bring English foxhounds to Virginia to hunt foxes. The foxhounds were accustomed to trailing foxes over miles and miles open terrain and the foxes going to ground. What they received from the grey fox was species that lived in the dense thickets and climbed trees to escape danger. These hounds were unable to tree the foxes, simply because they were unable to air scent the foxes in the trees. Then, the Virginians imported the red fox. The cleared land was perfect for this species, which then spread throughout North America, breeding with the northern population of native red foxes.

Where the two species occur together, the red fox is actually not dominant over the grey. The two are actually about the same size, but the grey fox is built like a bulldog. It’s also more aggressive toward the red. That’s why those people who shoot foxes for their fur using electronic calls are able to call both reds and greys on red calls but only greys on grey calls. The grey fox’s dominance over the red is unusual because the red is dominant over all of the other fox species with which it shares a range.

The grey was  never as popular as the red as a fur bearer. The southern races of the grey lack an undercoat, where they are known as the “Samson fox” because of their terrible lack of hair.

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