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Fabulous photos to help you identify Canadian foxes

How well do you know your fox species? These photos will help you tell them apart in the wild

  • Published Feb 07, 2016
  • Updated Jul 21, 2022
  • 376 words
  • 2 minutes
How well do you know your fox species? These photos will help you tell them apart in the wild. Photo: Vladislav Kamenski/CanGeo Photo Club
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Sly. Quick. Cunning. Famously vocal. There’s something about foxes that has captured the collective imagination of humanity throughout the ages, with the result being that these small mammals of the dog family have crept into everything from English language idioms to popular culture. Canada is home to four different species of fox. To help you tell them apart in the wild, we’ve put together this handy primer featuring beautiful images from members of our Photo Club

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red fox runs through deep snow
A red fox runs through the snow in Quebec. (Photo: Natally Klaric/CanGeo Photo Club)
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The most common and abundant of the fox species, the red fox is found across the entire northern hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to North Africa to Eurasia. It has also been introduced in Australia, where it is considered an invasive species.

In spite of its name, the red fox doesn’t always have red fur; colour morphs common in the species include the cross fox (so named for the black stripes across its back and shoulders) and the silver fox, which has black fur tipped with white.

A fox with black fur stands on a mound of dirt
A cross fox, a melanistic variety of red fox so named for the black stripes on its back and shoulders. (Photo: Larry Erlendson/CanGeo Photo Club)
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A black and gray fox looks directly at the camera
The silver fox, another melanistic variety of the red fox boasting black fur with white tips. (Photo: Darlene Mulligan/Can Geo Photo Club)
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Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus)

As its name indicates, the Arctic fox is native to the northern hemisphere, found throughout the Arctic tundra. It is highly adapted to its frigid environment, with a small, dense body and deep, insulating fur that changes colour with the season — brown-grey in summer, white in winter.

An Arctic fox peeks over a snow mound
The Arctic fox's stark white winter coat enables it to blend in with the snowy landscape. (Photo: Barb Callander/CanGeo Photo Club)
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An Arctic fox appears to be shedding its white coat, revealing darker fur for summer camouflage
An Arctic fox in the process of transitioning to its darker summer coat. (Photo: Rhonda Glenn/CanGeo Photo Club)
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Grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

With its preference for deciduous forest habitat, the grey fox is found only in southern Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Although similar in size to the red fox, the grey fox can be distinguished by its rounded ears and brindled fur. It is one of only two, possibly three, living species of the genus Urocyon, which means “tailed dog,” and the only species of American canid that can climb trees.

A grey fox in West Pine Ridge, Manitoba. (Photo: Anne Klassen/CanGeo Photo Club)
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Swift fox (Vulpes velox)

A Prairie-dwelling canid about the size of a domestic cat, the swift fox was hunted nearly to extinction in the 1930s due to predator control programs. By 1938, it had actually been extirpated in Canada, but a reintroduction program started in 1983 has successfully re-established some small populations in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. The swift fox is still considered an endangered species in Canada under the Species At Risk Act.

A swift fox and her kit in the Canadian Prairies. (Photo: Colleen Gara/CanGeo Photo Club)
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