Foxes are one of the most ubiquitous and beloved animal species in North America, especially in California. They inhabit every major habitat found in the Californian landscape, from the high altitudes of the Sierra Nevada to the beaches along its coast. Foxes in California have adapted to many of the changes that have occurred in the state over time, making them some of the best-adapted urban animals around. Furthermore, no matter how many individuals or how widespread they become, fox populations remain highly resilient and stable due to their ability to survive and thrive under all kinds of human-generated pressures.
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Types of Foxes in California
There is an impressive variety of foxes living in California. It’s home to
- Grey fox
- Red fox
- Desert kit fox
The desert kit fox can be found on islands off the coast. The desert kit fox, which inhabits much of the state’s deserts, is one of its most recognizable species, with its large ears and thick yellowish-brown fur.
In the state of California, foxes have multiple habitats. Depending on the area, you may find foxes living in forests, grasslands, deserts or mountains. In Northern California, foxes can often be found living amongst redwoods and chaparral ecosystems. To the south near Los Angeles, they are at home in brush-covered hills and valleys. Foxes like to create dens in rocky areas or by making use of abandoned burrows that were built by other animals such as gophers and squirrels. In order to stay healthy and thrive, these foxes require a wide variety of insects and vegetation that can only be found within their natural habitats.
Foxes in the wild have incredibly varied and balanced diets, subsisting mostly on small mammals such as voles, rabbits, and moles. They also hunt birds, lizards, frogs, and fish; their diet during the winter changes to include more scavenged carrion or refuse sources.
They also have preferred diets of other small animals living in or near water sources or burrows, foxes enjoy fruits and vegetables like apples or raspberries. Foxes are also adept at being opportunistic feeders; they’ll quickly take advantage of any available food source they can find. Their omnivorous diet allows them to sustain themselves over a wide range of ecosystems while they search for prey that is not only nutrient-rich but also provides enough calories to maintain their metabolisms.
In the beautiful state of California, foxes come in a variety of colours. From black to brown to red and silver, you can find these furry critters with stunning bright yellow eyes almost anywhere in the region. Interestingly enough, coat colour has more to do with genetics than its environment; from heavily wooded forests to icy tundra and desert habitats, foxes can range from a deep reddish hue to an ashy grey.
Size, Lifespan and Weight
Red foxes in California are the largest of the four species at an average weight of 8-15 lbs, while grey foxes, which inhabit parts of Southern California, tend to be smaller and lighter ranging from approximately 5-10 lbs. The smallest are desert and kit foxes, typically weighing only 4-7 lbs. (Though size varies substantially between individuals.) On average, red foxes have a lifespan of three or four years in the wild while other members may live up to eight years.
Foxes in California are skilful and resourceful hunters, but they too can be vulnerable in the wild. They face potential threats from a variety of predators, such as wolves, bobcats, bears, coyotes, cougars and hawks. Some of these animals will take advantage of a fox if it is alone or has been injured. Wolves may even form packs to hunt for larger prey like foxes. Even if foxes do escape the clutches of their pursuers, they could still fall victim to diseases that their predators spread in the environment.
Foxes in California reproduce depending on their species and the region. Red Foxes will typically have multiple litters per year, with each one usually containing around 4 to 7 cubs. On the other hand, Gray Foxes tend to only have one litter of 2-4 cubs per year in California. Fox mothers are attentive and will stay close to their young for many months to ensure they survive. The cubs will then disperse after they reach a certain age, at which point they become independent and ready to start a family of their own.
Do GREY foxes live in California?
Foxes are commonly found throughout North America, but until recently it was assumed that only red foxes lived in California. In 2018 however, a study was conducted in Alabama observing several grey foxes and showed that they have adapted to a different environment than originally believed.
Are foxes protected in California?
Foxes are a common sight in California, but what many people don’t know is whether they are protected by law. Foxes are considered “unprotected” by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, meaning that they are not subject to any state-level protections. That being said, there is some legal protection available depending on where they happen to live.
How can you tell a red fox from a grey fox?
Red Foxes in California have reddish-orange fur with white bellies, black legs and tail tips, while Gray Foxes in California have grey-brown fur that is more grizzled and darkened on the back of their necks. Red Foxes also have distinctive “black stockings” on their hind legs, whereas Gray Foxes don’t have this marking.
Growing up enjoying the beauty of my village, a good passion for nature developed in me from childhood. Following my passion for the natural world, I have chosen zoology for my graduation, during my undergraduate degree, I participated in many nature trails, bird watching, rescues, training for wildlife conservation, workshop, and seminars on biodiversity. I have a keen interest in invertebrate biology, herpetology, and ornithology. Primary interests include studies on taxonomy, ecology, habitat and behavior.