Maine has two species of fox, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). The red fox is abundant and widespread, occurring in all counties in Maine. Gray fox is abundant in southern and mid-coast Maine and continues to expand into western and central parts of the state.
Gray fox are the only member in the canid family in North America that can climb trees. Foxes have keen eyesight and hearing, and are very agile, jumping up to six feet high.
Fox are mainly diurnal and nocturnal meaning that both red and gray fox are active during dawn and dusk, but still commonly seen in daylight. In winter, given the need for additional calories to stay warm and the decreased amount of available food they expand their home range.
Males generally disperse twice the distance of females after leaving their mothers. They travel as much as 40 miles before settling down na claiming their own territories. Female offspring remain close to or share their mother’s territoriy. Related females tolerate each other’s presence, but territories of unrelated females to not overlap.
Tracks of Maine foxes can be found along the edges of fields and forest. A fox print is about 1.5 to 2 inches long with hair marks often visible between the toes. Foxes walk in a straight, purposeful line. The front paw is always next to the rear paw print.
Diet and hunting practices of Maine Foxes
Foxes are omnivores and eat a wide variety of seasonal plants and animals. Small birds and mammals are common pray, including mice, voles, rats, rabbits, and bird eggs. Foxes also eat insects, snakes, berries, apples, seeds, and nuts. They can be found digging up frozen apples or heading into dense conifers to stalk snowshoe hare which are also diurnal. Red foxes have a special method of hunting with impressive pounces on prey hidden under the snow in winter. They can hear a mouse squeak up to 150 yards away.
Foxes are found in diverse habitats and are surprisingly comfortable living near people, which is thought to keep them safe from the more human-shy coyote, a predator of the fox. Foxes prefer a mix of evergreen forest and fields—especially areas where the forest meets a field, lake, or river.
Size and appearance of Maine Foxes
Adult red foxes weigh 7-15 pounds, and gray fox only reach around 10 pounds. Gray and red foxes do not interbreed. Red fox are a brilliant orange, with a bright white chest, black legs, and bushy white-tipped tail. Silver or cross foxes are a melanistic form of the red fox. These majestic creatures appear black, silver, some with a combination of red and are quite rare to spot. Gray foxes have a hint of red on the neck, ears, and lower legs, and a black stripe down their tail. The thick, brushy tail helps them keep their balance, and also serves as a warm cover in cold weather and as a signal flag to communicate with other foxes.
Breeding habits of Maine Foxes
Gray fox breed with a lifelong companion, whereas red fox do not. Breeding usually occurs in late winter. Female foxes, called vixen, give birth to a litter of three to eight pups in an underground den each spring. Both parents provide food and care for their pups for three months, in addition to extensive hunting lessons. Young are often vocal, making surprisingly high-pitched chirps, yips, and screams. The lifespan of a fox is two to four years in Maine’s challenging seasonal climate and rugged terrain.
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