What to Know About the Silver Fox

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on December 02, 2022
5 min read

Foxes are small to medium-sized mammals of the Canidae (or dog) family with fascinating characteristics. For one, foxes are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. There are currently around 27 different species of foxes throughout the world. Of those, there are about nine different subspecies. 

The silver fox is one of the rarest species of the red fox family. Here are some interesting silver fox animal facts to give you an overview of these intelligent creatures.

The silver fox belongs to the same species as the red fox (Vulpes Vulpes). It has a black coat with speckles of silver, which is due to higher levels of melanin in its genetic makeup. 

The silver fox represents roughly 10% of the entire red fox population. The red fox is the most common species of fox in the world.

Silver fox physical characteristics. Silver foxes can range in size. They can be anywhere from 18 to 33.75 inches long with tails that are 12 to 21 inches long. Foxes are generally considered the smallest members of the dog family, with an adult weight of anywhere from 6.5 to 24 pounds. The size of a fox can also vary depending on its habitat, as an abundance or lack of food in its environment can play into its nutrition. Animal researchers can usually determine a fox's size just by looking at its footprints.

Silver foxes have strong legs and can run at speeds up to about 30 miles per hour. This makes them especially talented at both hunting down prey and escaping other predators.

The silver fox is probably most recognizable for the unique color of its fur. Its colors may be black, blueish, gray, or silver. The tip of the tail is usually white and bushy. Some varieties may carry more traces of silver than others. Silver foxes in captivity are specifically bred for their black and silver coats, while those in the wild have some brown or reddish color in their fur. 

Silver foxes are also known for their fur, which is long, soft, and glossy compared to that of a red fox. Because of this, their pelts are in high demand in the fur coat market. Many different color variations of silver fox now exist due to selective breeding. The two most common varieties are the standard silver and the Alaskan silver.

The standard silver fox has a silkier and softer coat with distinct black and silver tones. Alaskan silver foxes have coarse fur with more brown than black, especially around the ears and the sides of the head. This coloration isn't as common in fur markets, since the clear black coat is the preferred choice over fur with hints of brown.

Silver fox personality. Like red foxes, silver foxes have very good eyesight and hearing. They can jump to heights of around 6 feet, making them particularly good hunters. A silver fox can locate prey hidden under the snow or ground and pounce to capture it.

Foxes are incredibly intelligent, adaptable, and shy creatures. Those varieties that live in more densely populated areas tend to be nocturnal, meaning they do the majority of their hunting and activities at night.

In a recent study, scientists at Cornell used 50 generations of selective breeding to successfully breed silver foxes that displayed friendliness toward people. While there's more research needed, the study has helped prove that selective domestication of wild animals can be done.

Like the red fox, the silver fox is a solitary animal. They prefer to forage alone as opposed to in a pack like dogs or wolves. However, in some parts of the year when ranges might overlap, silver foxes become partly territorial. They will occupy and defend their dens and ranges from other packs. It’s not uncommon for silver foxes to use the same den over several generations.

Foxes are highly adaptable and resourceful. This makes it easier for them to handle a wide range of environmental conditions.

Like many breeds of fox, silver foxes can be found throughout the northern hemisphere, as well as in some parts of Australia. Whether they’re living in subtropical or icy regions, these foxes can quickly find food and keep warm.

These foxes mostly live in the northwestern parts of North America. You can also find the silver fox in some parts of Russia, mainly in Siberia and the Caucasus mountain area. 

Some common habitats for the silver fox include:

  • Sea cliffs
  • Salt marshes
  • High mountains
  • Peat bogs
  • Woodlands
  • Sand dunes
  • Various urban areas

Silver foxes tend to be monogamous, though some male silver foxes might mate with more than one female. Female silver foxes may share a den if they’re mated to the same male. Non-breeding female silver foxes may also help male and female pairs with raising their young. While there’s always only one breeding male in a group of silver foxes, that male might also venture outside the group to mate with other females.

Silver foxes consume a variety of foods. While they prefer a carnivorous diet, they can also live off plant-based foods if meat is not an option. 

Wild silver foxes use various hunting strategies to capture their prey, which includes smaller animals. They use their strong sense of hearing to locate animals like rabbits and other rodents and jump high into the air to land on their prey with a forceful bite to the neck. For prey that's closer to the ground, they'll usually stalk the animal and then quickly pursue it.

Some other foods the silver fox eats include:

  • Birds 
  • Eggs
  • Small lizards and amphibians 
  • Insects
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grains, nuts, and seeds
  • Human food waste

The silver fox prefers to eat frequent small meals. They'll often store or hide their food to regulate their diet or save prized food findings to eat later.

Like their red fox relatives, silver foxes only live for about three years in the wild. Those bred in captivity can live 10 to 12 years. 

Because of their small size, wild silver foxes can fall prey to bigger animals like wolves, coyotes, and wildcats. Silver foxes can also carry conditions like rabies, mange, and distemper.