There are 2 types of foxes in Tennessee, the Red Fox and the Gray Fox. In this article we’ll talk a little bit about each species, look at some pictures, go over the differences between the two, and touch on where you might be able to spot one.
Foxes in Tennessee
Both species of foxes found in Tennessee can be found throughout the state, however the Red Fox is much more widespread throughout the world than the Gray Fox.
1. Red Fox
- Common name: Red Fox
- Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes
- Family: Canidae
- Length: 36 – 46 inches
- Tail: 11.5 – 16 inches
- Ears: 3.4 – 3.5 inches
- Weight: 10 – 20 pounds (may reach up to 30 pounds)
- Average lifespan: 2-5 years in the wild/10-12 years in captivity
As the name suggests, Red Foxes are mostly red in color. Their stomachs, chins, and throats are grayish white and their tails are white tipped as well. They may also have black or dark feet. They’re about 2 feet tall and 3 feet long, or the size of a small to medium sized dog.
Red Foxes and Gray Foxes have many things in common such as their habitat and many of physical features. Both species of foxes in Tennessee will be found in similar areas and habitats and can even look quite similar at times. Red Foxes may also have gray fur making it hard to tell the difference.
There are a few dead giveaways though:
- Red Foxes have white-tipped tails and Gray Foxes have black-tipped tails
- Gray Foxes may have a black stripe down their back
- Red Foxes are visibly larger than Gray Foxes
- Red Foxes have a more pronounced, dog-like face and snout
- Gray Foxes have more of a cat-like face and snout
The Red Fox is fairly widely distributed worldwide and can be found throughout North America from Florida to Alaska, including all of Tennessee. They are less common in western and southwestern parts of the United States. Within their range Red Foxes have a very diverse range of habitats including forests, woodlands, wetlands, mountains, deserts, and open fields. It’s also quite common to see them in backyards in both rural and suburban neighborhoods.
Foxes are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and plants, and they are opportunistic eaters meaning they take what they can when they can. They primarily feed on insects, small mammals such as rodents, as well as reptiles and birds. They will also eat various fruits, vegetables and plants including berries, seeds, and fungi.
Red Foxes are primarily nocturnal and are elusive animals that evade being seen. Aside from the night, they are most active at dawn and dusk. However they may be seen in the middle of the day in some areas, so they are not always 100% nocturnal.
2. Gray Fox
- Common name: Gray (or Grey) Fox
- Scientific name: Urocyon cinereoargenteus
- Family: Canidae
- Length: 35 – 44 inches
- Tail: 11 – 15.5 inches
- Ears: 2.5 – 3 inches
- Weight: 5 – 14 pounds
- Lifespan: 6-10 years in the wild/12-16 years (reports of up to 20 years) in captivity
The Gray Fox, a distant cousin to the Red Fox, is the second species of Foxes in Tennessee. They are noticeably smaller than the Red Fox at about 1-1.5 feet in height and 3 ft in length. They have very long tails compared to their size and are mostly gray and black in color vs the Red Fox that is mostly red and white.
As mentioned above, they have a somewhat cat-like appearance. Gray Foxes also generally have a longer lifespan than Red Foxes. Aside from these differences we have mentioned, much is the same about these two species. They have very similar diets, prefer living in similar habitats and behave much the same in the wild.
Fun fact about gray foxes: The Gray Fox has the unique ability to climb trees, no other species of fox is able to do this.
Like the Red Fox, the Gray Fox can also be found throughout the state of Tennessee. They are also found throughout most of the United States, Mexico, and Central America. Their range does not go into Canada and they are uncommon in parts of central northern U.S. and the Pacific Northwest.
Common questions about foxes in Tennessee
Are there foxes in The Great Smoky Mountains?
Both the Red Fox and the Gray Fox can be found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However they are mostly nocturnal, highly elusive, and not often seen. Cades Cove near Townsend, TN is a great spot for wildlife viewing and gives you a good shot to see one in the park.
Is it legal to kill a fox in Tennessee?
It is legal to trap and kill a fox in the state of Tennessee, but there are strict rules and guidelines that must be followed in order to stay in compliance with state laws. You can learn more about those laws here.
Can you own a fox in Tennessee?
Native foxes (reds and grays) are illegal to own as pets in the state of Tennessee. Non-native foxes, such as Fennec Foxes and Arctic Foxes, are legal to own in the state of Tennessee without a permit. See this article for more information about the laws regarding owning native wildlife as pets in the state of Tennessee.
Are foxes endangered in Tennessee?
Both Gray and Red Foxes have stable populations in Tennessee. Similar to coyotes, they have been driven closer to humans due to loss of habitat.