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Fox Tracks: A Guide to Identifying Their Paw Prints

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The track of a fox has an overall oval or diamond shape, and sometimes the claw marks are also visible. The red fox has an average footprint of 1.5-2 inches long. Fennec and arctic foxes have smaller footprints. The fox walks in a straight line, with a gait of about 12 inches.

Foxes are part of the same family as dogs and coyotes (the Canidae family). The tracks they leave are quite similar, making it difficult for an untrained eye to tell the difference.

Fox tracks are found everywhere in the world except Antarctica. You can find them in forests, deserts, mountains, plains, snowy regions, and even in suburban and urban areas.

You tell fox tracks by the shape and length. There are also other signs that can tell you if it is a fox or not, such as the shape of excrement and the presence of burrows.

In this article, you will learn what fox tracks look like in snow, sand, and mud. We’ll also dive into the difference between fox tracks and coyote tracks, the gait of a fox, and more.

What Do Fox Tracks Look Like?

Foxes leave tracks similar to those of small dogs. Their tracks are elongated, oval, or sometimes diamond-shaped. Their foot pads are smaller than dogs’ and are only seen in snow or mud. 

Fox tracks have an elongated, oval shape, sometimes described as a diamond shape. 

They are rounder when foxes spread their digits on soft surfaces.

Foxes’ toes are triangular in shape and the metacarpal pads (front paws) and metatarsal pads (hind paws) are shorter than those of dogs. In front of each finger, there is a claw, which can leave traces, especially if the fox walks in the snow. 

On mud or sand, claws are harder to notice.

Overall, fox tracks resemble the tracks left by small dogs.

What Do Fox Tracks Look Like

Fox Tracks of Different Species

Different foxes have slightly different feet, meaning they leave different tracks.

The feet of red foxes, Fennecs, and arctic foxes are furry to protect them from ice and snow or hot sand. This makes their digits difficult to see in their tracks as they are hidden by the fur. 

The fur between their pads is visible in tracks left in the snow or mud.

All species of foxes (except for the gray fox) have non-retractable claws[1]. This means their claw marks are seen in their tracks.

If a gray fox has passed with its claws retracted, you can’t see the claw marks. They have a smaller paw size than the red fox.

Red Fox Tracks

Red Fox Tracks

The red fox is the most widespread fox species in the world. It is found everywhere, except Antarctica. 

Tracks left by red foxes are oval and about 2 inches long, longer than other foxes.

The digits of red foxes are thin, which is why they stand out in a trace sometimes. They have hair between their pads unlike other species of foxes.[2] 

Sometimes, you will be able to see the trail the hair leaves when they walk on snow or mud.

Arctic Fox Tracks

Arctic foxes are half the size of red foxes, so they leave smaller tracks. They also have shorter legs. The tracks left by Arctic foxes are about 1.5 inches long and two inches wide.

Their tracks are harder to identify because they live in areas with snow and ice.

Fennec Fox Tracks

Fennec Fox Tracks

Fennec foxes weigh about three pounds. It is the smallest fox species. They live in desert areas and have fur between the paw pads to protect them from the hot sand.

The tracks left by Fennec foxes are messy because they walk on sand. 

It is difficult to differentiate the tracks of Fennec foxes because at the first wind blow they are covered by sand. Not many details are known about these foxes in the wild.

Grey Fox Tracks

Gray foxes are not part of the same genus as red foxes, arctic foxes, or Fennecs.[3] They are not considered true foxes. 

They are a little smaller than red foxes; therefore, the tracks they leave are smaller, but still similar to those of red foxes.

Their tracks have an oval shape and are 1.75 inches long and the same width. 

They have retractable claws for climbing trees and less fur between the toes than red foxes. Their marks are clearer and can be without claw marks. You can also see hair marks on the ground, especially in mud.

Red Fox vs. Gray Fox Tracks

TraitRed foxGray fox
DigitsTheir digits can be hidden by fur.Their feet are not as furry, so their tracks are clearer.
Paw ShapeOvalOval
Paw Length1.75-2 inches long1.25-1.75 inches long
Paw Width1.5-2 inches wide1-1.75 inches wide

Fox Tracks vs. Substrate

Foxes leave different tracks depending on the substrate they walk on. In the snow, foxes’ tracks are not as clear as those left in the mud.

The tracks foxes leave differ depending on the species and the substrate they walk on:

  • Snow
  • Mud
  • Sand

Fox Tracks in Snow

Fox Tracks in Snow

Fox tracks in the snow are often more difficult to identify, as snow is blown on top of the tracks. Their digits can be distinguished if the snow is condensed.

The tracks left by arctic foxes are small, round holes in the snow because they have smaller feet.

Fox Tracks in Mud

Fox Tracks in Mud

Mud preserve fox tracks the best because it dries, keeping the shape of the fox track.[4]

The tracks are also clearer in mud than those left in the snow. The four digits and pads are easily distinguished. You can often also see hair and claw marks.

Fox Tracks in Sand

Fox Tracks in Sand

Only desert foxes leave footprints in the sand. Desert foxes, such as the Fennec fox, are small animals that can reach up to three pounds body weight. Their tracks in the sand can be disturbed by the wind, which makes them difficult to identify.

Fox Tracks vs. Coyote Tracks

Coyotes are twice the size and weight of foxes and leave deeper and clearer tracks. Their tracks are larger and reach almost three inches in length. Another aspect that differentiates them from foxes is the pad shape. It has a more pronounced central lobe than that of foxes.

The biggest difference between fox prints and coyote prints is their size. Coyotes are much larger than foxes and weigh almost twice as much. This makes them sink deeper into the ground and leave clearer tracks. 

Their paw prints are also larger than those of foxes, reaching about three inches in length.

Foxes’ pads have a chevron shape, while those of coyotes have a more pronounced central lobe that sticks out. Coyotes also have larger toes.

Other Signs of Foxes

Foxes leave other clues than tracks where they pass. They can leave excrement (scat) and a strong smell of urine. In an area with foxes, you will also see dens.

If you are not sure the tracks you find are those of a fox, you can orient yourself by other clues:

  • Fox scat
  • If the traces are linear or not
  • The presence of dens
  • Strong smell of urine nearby

Fox Scat

The excrements of foxes are similar to that of dogs. They are dark in color and have a conical shape, which is partially segmented. Their size can reach six inches in length and 5/8 inches in diameter.

Fresh scats have a distinct musky smell.

Fox Gait

The gait of foxes is varied and depends on their behavior and location. Foxes can:

  • Walk
  • Trot
  • Lope
  • Gallop

Foxes generally walk in a direct trot, which means they walk in a straight line – one of the hind legs lands exactly on the track it made with the front leg.

A red fox’s stride is about 12 inches, while Arctic foxes have shorter legs, making their stride shorter.

Dens

Do Foxes Have Multiple Dens
Image Source

Foxes dig or inherit dens. They can also steal or borrow them from other animals. They usually dig their dens near bodies of water.

If you encounter fox tracks on the road, they can lead you to their den.

If you are not sure the tracks you saw are of a fox, look around and you might notice their den.

Urine Smell

Fox urine has a strong musky smell, and its intensity varies depending on the season.[5] If foxes are in the mating season, their urine will have an extremely strong smell.

Males leave scent marks up to 70 times an hour when looking for food.[6]

If you find fox tracks on the road, you can tell if it is a female fox or a male fox. You need to look where the urine spot is in relation to the prints they left with their hind legs. Males urinate before the paw prints, while females urinate between the prints or after them.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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