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Red and gray foxes roam the Region, but in slightly different areas

Red and gray foxes roam the Region, but in slightly different areas

Red and gray foxes roam the Region, but in slightly different areas

You don't see foxes too often around here, but if you do, chances are they'll be red ones.

Both red and gray foxes live in the area, but the red fox is more abundant in the northwest part of Indiana.

"They prefer open country, farmland and fields," said Bruce Plowman, a wildlife research biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

"The better gray fox habitat is in the southern part of the state (that's) dominated by the forests. You will tend to see them in pockets and patches of woodland areas up in the northern part of the state, along river systems."

Red and gray foxes are similar in size, with both weighing about 10 pounds or so. The reds, however, tend to be a little taller with longer legs.

Both species will eat small rodents and birds. The red fox is primarily a "mouser," while the gray fox will also feed on rabbits, birds and chipmunks.

"Both types of foxes are opportunistic feeders," said Randy Grass, a wildlife bio-technician with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. "They will eat anything they can catch, depending on what is available -- even turtles.

"Foxes will also eat berries (and) plants, and will get into farmers' fields and eat crops. Anything to survive."

The populations of both species have dipped throughout the state, but the reduction has come about for different reasons.

"There has been a suppression of the red fox as coyotes have moved into these parts since the late 1970s and 1980s," Plowman said. "Coyotes view the red fox as a competitor and will defend their territory and their food resources, killing and even eating them. We will see fluctuations of red fox numbers from year to year."

Other things have negatively affected gray foxes.

"There are a few possible factors, including the fact that they are susceptible to distemper," Plowman said. "Another primary factor is a change or decline in the type of habitat that they need.

"Although we are seeing an increase in mature forested areas in the southern part of the state, it is not the mix of habitat they need, which includes some open or old brushy areas for hunting, denning and daytime rest opportunities. There is not as much timber harvesting that creates these areas."

Foxes pose little threat to humans and they are wary of people. However, small family pets can be at risk at times, especially in the early spring when foxes are stressed and hunting around the clock to try and feed their pups.

"If you are fortunate to see a fox, enjoy them from a distance," Plowman said. "Do not try to befriend any animal. Most harm from wild animals happens when you try to feed them by hand."

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