Species Profile

Gray Fox

Scientific Name: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2015
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened


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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Gray Fox

Gray Fox Photo 1

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Description

The Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) has a typical fox-like appearance but the pelage is a grizzled grey colour, with reddish regions on the neck, sides, and legs. There is a prominent black stripe running the length of the back down to the tip of the tail. The Gray Fox is significant in the phylogeny of canids because it is considered to be the basal member of the Canid family. It is also the most arboreal of canids, and can partially rotate its ankle bones to facilitate descending trees. (Updated 2017/01/17)

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Distribution and Population

The Gray Fox is generally found from south-central Canada to northern parts of South America and is expanding its range in the United States northward and eastward. They were present historically in southern Ontario but currently are likely breeding in two regions in Canada: Rainy River-Thunder Bay (hereafter; ‘Northwestern Ontario’), and Pelee Island, Ontario. In this report, the Gray Fox in southeastern Manitoba, Quebec, and New Brunswick are considered to be extralimital or dispersers/visitors or, more appropriately, ‘occasional’ animals that have dispersed from adjacent populations in the United States and have not likely established breeding populations in these parts of Canada. (Updated 2017/01/17)

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Habitat

The Gray Fox’s distribution is closely associated with deciduous forest. Gray Foxes den in many different kinds of substrates, usually located in dense brush close to a water source. Gray Foxes are considered habitat generalists and are partially tolerant of human disturbances, although they are generally more secretive than Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), and so are seen less often. (Updated 2017/01/17)

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Biology

Gray Fox are the most omnivorous of the North American canids and will consume vegetable matter, such as fruit, year-round. Gray Foxes in Canada are thought to breed from mid-February to mid-March, as they do in the northeastern United States. Most female Gray Foxes breed in their first year and have one litter of 3 - 4 kits per year. Gray Foxes are typically nocturnal or crepuscular. The basic social unit consists of an adult male and female and their offspring, and this group maintains a home range. The adult sex ratio is usually 1:1 and Gray Fox are assumed to be monogamous. (Updated 2017/01/17)

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Threats

Mortality from trapping likely is preventing the establishment of breeding sub-populations in much of the Canadian range outside Pelee Island. The most important factor affecting Gray Fox populations in the United States is trapping. The effect of harvest in Canada is unknown but most records in most sub-populations derive from incidental trapping. Because of the small population size, any significant mortality factor, such as high Coyote predation and diseases (including canine distemper and rabies), could become significant limiting factors. In the two sub-populations with evidence of breeding, but mainly in the Northwestern Ontario sub-population, the likely threats are mortality from trapping, and roadkill. The overall threat score was high. (Updated 2017/01/17)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Gray Fox is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Grey Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

11 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Gray Fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus in Canada (2016)

    The Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) has a typical fox-like appearance but the pelage is a grizzled grey colour, with reddish regions on the neck, sides, and legs. There is a prominent black stripe running the length of the back down to the tip of the tail. The Gray Fox is significant in the phylogeny of canids because it is considered to be the basal member of the Canid family. It is also the most arboreal of canids, and can partially rotate its ankle bones to facilitate descending trees.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - Grey Fox (2002)

    Designated Special Concern in April 1979. Status re-examined and uplisted to Threatened in May 2002. Last assessment based on an update status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Gray Fox (2017)

    This southern fox is apparently expanding northward, but very few mature, breeding individuals are known to live in Canada. These animals are restricted to two sub-populations; one in the Rainy River – Thunder Bay region, which has a strong rescue effect, but rescue effect for the other, Pelee Island, is uncertain. Sub-population threats include incidental trapping and roadkill. Animals have been recorded in Manitoba and Quebec, but breeding is not evident at this time. Recent records in New Brunswick likely represent dispersing non-breeding animals.
  • Response Statements - Grey Fox (2004)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Grey Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) in Canada (2017)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the Grey Fox and has prepared this recovery strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of Ontario and the Province of Quebec, as per section 39(1) of SARA.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (2005)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2015-2016 (2016)

    Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 25 wildlife species; of these, the majority (68%) were re-assessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 45 species assessed, seven were assigned a status of Not at Risk (two re-assessments and five new assessments). To date, and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 724 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 320 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 209 Special Concern, and 23 Extirpated (i.e., no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 15 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct, 54 wildlife species have been designated as Data Deficient, and 177 have been assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species - January 2017 (2017)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. In 2016, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, the Governor in Council approved listing proposals for 44 wildlife species. It is proposed that 23 species be added to Schedule 1, 18 be reclassified or have a change made to how they are defined (two wildlife species are being split into four), one species  be removed from Schedule 1, and another two species not be added. Listing proposals were published in Canada Gazette, part I for a 30-day public comment period and final listing decisions for all 44 species are expected in the first half of 2017.Please submit your comments byMay 11, 2017, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 11, 2017, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website The COSEWIC Summaries of Terrestrial Species Eligible for Addition or Reclassification on Schedule 1 - January 2017

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017