Foxes are members of the Canidae family, which includes other species native to Ohio such as wolves, coyotes and dogs. Four types of foxes live in North America and two of them can be found in Ohio.
The gray fox and the red fox are the only fox species that live in Ohio. While these two species are very similar, there are key differences that make them two distinct and unique species.
The grey fox is the only species of fox living in Ohio that is native to the area. The grey fox is recognizable by its salt-and-pepper colored grey fur and the black-colored stripe that runs from the base of its tail to the tip.
The grey fox mates once per year and has the same mate for life. Its diet includes small mammals such as rabbits, mice, birds, insects and occasional plant matter including fruits and acorns.
Although the red fox is commonly found in Ohio, it is actually a non-native species. The red fox was brought over by British settlers in the 1700s and the species has since encroached on the territory of gray foxes. Although many red foxes have a red or orange coloring to go with their namesake, the species can be found in a variety of colors.
In fact, they're often mistaken for the grey fox and vice-versa. The red fox shares similar mating behaviors and diet with the grey fox.
Differences Between the Species
The two fox species living in Ohio share many similarities, but are different in several ways. You can always tell the two species apart as the red fox tail has a white tip while the gray fox has a black stripe.
The red fox is the bigger of the two species with longer legs for faster running speeds. This also gives the red fox a lankier look compared to the grey fox. The grey fox has shorter legs that it can use to climb trees and vertical surfaces, a feat that is impossible for the red fox.
The facial structures of these two species can also help you differentiate them. The red fox face is much more dog-like while the grey fox face is more cat-like.
Similarities Between the Species
The red fox and the grey fox share quite a few similarities. They're both omnivorous and have very similar breeding seasons and patterns.
While the names suggest very different colorations, the red fox can often come in a variety of colors including red, orange, brown and grey that can make them easily look like their grey fox relative. Similarly, grey foxes often have shades of red and orange within their grey fur.
Where to Find Foxes in Ohio
Finding a fox in Ohio is easy if you know where to look. Both species prefer wooded areas and open brush lands, though the fox may travel several miles from its den for food.
Foxes are nocturnal creatures so your chances of spotting one are better at night. Neither species of foxes migrate for the winter and can be seen year-round.
During mating season, your chances of spotting a fox are greater. The red fox has an early mating season that runs from January to February, while the grey fox mates later from February to March.
You should also be aware that these two species are also often mixed up with the related canine the coyote. Coyotes are grey in color and significantly larger than foxes, so be sure to look at the size of the creature before concluding it is a fox.
About the Author
K.C. Moore has been writing professionally since 2008. He has contributed to "Eye on Life," Kingdom Hearts Ultimania and several online publications. Moore has also worked professionally as a game adviser for Blockbuster Video since 2004. Moore is a graduate of Central Michigan University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in English with a concentration in creative writing.