By Ali Holton

What does the fox say? Florida is home to both the red and gray fox.

The often-elusive gray fox can be found throughout the state. For their habitat, they prefer covered, wooded areas away from civilization. The gray fox on average weighs around 7-14 pounds and often has a reddish tint to its otherwise gray-colored fur. This red fur sometimes leads to the misidentification of the gray fox for a red fox. An interesting fact that makes the gray fox unique is that they can climb trees, a trait not often found in the canine family, which has garnered them their nickname: the tree fox.

In comparison, the red fox, which can be easily identified by their rusty-red coat, black-tipped ears and legs, white underbelly and bushy tail, can also be found around the state as a naturalized and established species. Red foxes are more commonly seen as they tend to avoid the dense, wooded habitat that the gray foxes prefer. Averaging weights of 10-15 pounds, the red fox is about the same size as a small breed of domestic dog.

Both species of fox are members of the canine family. They are mostly nocturnal animals which feed primarily on small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, rats and mice, as well as small birds, fish, insects, berries and fruit. Foxes are most commonly observed at their feeding times at dawn or dusk, though nursing females can also be seen in the middle of the day if foraging while her babies, called pups, rest.

These curious mammals give birth to an average of three to five pups that are born and raised in dens. Both the red and gray fox can either dig their own dens or take over a preexisting burrow made by other animals such as gopher tortoises or armadillos. Mothers raise their young for an average of two to six months and most breeding pairs will mate for life.

Foxes are beneficial to us and our ecosystem. They are a natural form of pest control that stabilizes populations of small animals like rats and rabbits. Foxes pose little to no threat to humans or pets in general and should never be approached or fed.

To deter wildlife from your home, keep garbage and pet food secured and never intentionally feed wild animals. Small pets should never be left unattended. Coexisting with wildlife can be safe, enjoyable and preserved for generations to come.

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