Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gray fox tracks

Susan and Janet tracked a gray fox this morning at Mt Pisgah, as it
showed off its cat-like agility with a lot of log walking and stone
hopping. Our group hasn't documented gray fox very often, if at all. I
think we've sometimes mistaken it for red fox. In any case, I was
pretty sure about this one. There were not very many clear tracks but
the one above looks gray to me, and the animal's behavior was more
consistent with red.

Straddle of walking gait looked too wide for red in most sections of the
trail, step length max was 18.5 inches while trotting through field
(with most step lengths much shorter), and it never used side trot while
going through an open field (which red foxes love to use).


  1. At the end of the 1st paragraph, I meant to say that the animal's behavior was more consistent with gray, not red, fox.

  2. I was out with the Assabet team on Sunday. There was a gray fox wandering around on the edge of the parking lot and then through the rhododendron nursery stock, hardy the interior forest! I find it challenging to distinguish domestic cat and gray fox tracks sometime. They are very close in size. But if you can find a nice "x", like in your photo, it can reveal the identity.

  3. Well, I tend to consider the X as just another factor of relative value and I don't like to hang my hat only on that

    Depending on substrate, you can sometimes see it in cat tracks, especially in a direct registering walk, in which rear foot steps onto front track. This is because a cat's hind foot is slightly more oval, and leading edge of rear palm pad slightly narrower. It might also have to do with the fact that less weight is placed on hind feet, so that rear palm pads don't squish down as much.

    Fortunately, cats often stop to look around, giving you an opportunity to see all four tracks. Then you might get to see clear, round front tracks with prominent, wide palm pads.

    I find the X more often in bobcat walks, than in house cat walks, but see it occasionally in my house cats too.

    In the above case, though, the distinction was between red and gray fox. Some of the tracks were like the one pictured above, and some had almost bar-like palm pads. So it was the combination of behavior and trail measurements that pushed me to gray.