Urocyon cinereoargenteus

Gray fox

Linda Broda Pribble



I moved to the Organ Mountains Region of Las Cruces, New Mexico, one year ago. A new wild landscape I now call home.


Hawks flying overhead, roadrunners darting across the street, lizards scurrying under rocks. The natural and the wild meet more closely here than the suburb of Chicago where I grew up.


Last March I awakened at 4:00 a.m. and made a cup of tea. I looked out the window of my new home. I saw what I thought was a coyote. Moving slowly and opening the back door, grabbing my bird binoculars, I whispered to myself “Gray Fox!”


The fox’s tail was thick and luxuriant, a broad black stripe traveling down the center of a long black tipped tail. This was no coyote! I put the binoculars down. The fox turned around and slowly came closer to the drain pipe. I sensed he was looking for water. I made a pucker sound with my mouth. The fox came nearer and sat down, about 20 feet away. We looked at one another in silence. The wind blew, the mesquite branches began swaying near the prickly pear cactus and ocotillo. There we were, me standing on the back porch and the fox seated at full attention, ears peaked.


This wild creature, so calm and close. It happened in a split-moment like when a glimpse becomes suspended by an encounter with wonder. There was no fear, just quiet. The gray fox slowly got up and walked away.


The Gray Fox is unique. The DNA data shows he is the oldest of the fox species, about 10 million years old. A large male fox weighs about 10 pounds; a female 8. They are smaller than coyotes, contrary to what I thought. What is unique to the gray fox are the extremely sharp claws that remain retractable. The claws enable this fox to do something no other fox species does…climb trees. I became aware of this when a cranky neighbor complained; “That damn fox, up in my tree eating the apricots, and tossing the pits in my direction, I think it’s intentional!” Perhaps, apricots are a welcome delight after sourcing insects, rodents, lizards, birds, fish, eggs and rabbits. These gray foxes are also known for sleeping in trees. The claws enable the gray fox to dig dens, source for food (underground), capture and fight prey. I think this creature is a “Superman” species because they love to swim, climb, and can run up to 20-28 miles per hour. They can expect to live in the wild from six to ten years. These foxes are found in North and Central America and the Organ Mountains Region of Las Cruces, New Mexico.


The beginning of each new year signals the mating season. These foxes mate for life. The incubation period is about fifty-one days. A litter usually consists of three to four kits. The male provides the food until the kits are weened at about three months. Fox dens can be up to 75 feet long and can have ten or more exits. They usually stay together until Fall, when the maturing males leave. During the Winter months, foxes are solitary and predominately nocturnal.


Stories and myths often depict the nature or personality of the fox as being sly, cunning, playful, mischievous, and an astute protector of family. The name for fox in Spanish is “Zorro.” I remember as a kid in the 1950’s, watching the “Zorro” series on television. Zorro was a skillful swordsman, a masked “super hero” fighting corruption in Spanish California. My kid-self became “Zorro” by jumping off the couch with a sword fashioned from an old coat hanger, making the sign of the Z just like TV Zorro with my make-believe sword. I ruined my mother’s pillows with Z marks. But TV Zorro was one of the good guys tricking the bad guys and helping those in need, giving to the poor, rescuing the innocent. I wonder if the Gray Fox is like Zorro? Is he a trickster out smarting his predators? I have heard it said that foxes make a trail and then double back, choosing a different direction to run, confusing predators. Foxes are sly, that’s one of their famous monikers, mischievous, playful and wild, swift in thought and action. Is that what they are here to teach us?



Canticle to the Gray Fox


Awe and wonder emerging in the desert


This fox creature, so beautiful


Imprinted tattoo on Creator’s arm


Spirit of mischief, play, wile and wit


Looking up into the vast blue sky above the Organ Mountains


A song of creation echoes through the canyons


Gray Fox


From fear of your wildness, unleashing my own.





Linda Broda Pribble is from Chicago and now makes her home in Las Cruces. She is a Healthcare Chaplain and a Secular Franciscan. She has been writing for many years, and looks forward to writing more stories and poetry.