An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Foxes Scent Marking

12-14-18 fox tracks_U1A8060Foxes, like all canids, tend to mark their territories frequently with both scat and urine.  Both convey information to other foxes regarding hierarchy and sexual status, in addition to marking territory. As these Gray Fox tracks crossing a pond illustrate, it’s rare for an elevated object in a fox’s line of view not to be visited and anointed. Research shows that when scavenging, foxes urinate up to 70 times an hour, allowing just a small amount of urine to be left in any one place.  In addition to rocks, stumps and other raised objects, the remains of a meal are often urinated on, indicating that the nourishing portions have already been consumed.

Red Foxes are generally solitary animals, except during their courtship period, which occurs any time between December and February.  At this time mates pair up, so it is not unusual to see two sets of fox tracks together.  This is also the time of year when the males’ urine acquires a strongly pungent, skunk-like odor detectable from hundreds of yards away.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.

10 responses

  1. To me, fox scent smells *almost* like skunk with a little of the essence of coffee in it. You can discern the difference.

    December 14, 2018 at 8:19 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    That’s a lot of marking!

    December 14, 2018 at 8:23 am

  3. Char Delabar


    December 14, 2018 at 9:20 am

  4. Betsy Bobo

    And you think you pee often??? Read this!

    Sent from my iPhone


    December 14, 2018 at 9:52 am

  5. Kathie Fiveash

    I think my dog has her fair share of fox inclinations!

    December 14, 2018 at 10:25 am

  6. Reuben

    Great photo of a fox marking it’s territory.

    As I’ve mentioned to you earlier and sent you a photo of it, we’ve had what appear to be red fox skat piles and marking going on right behind our house, just over the bank of the Androscoggin River. I stumbled upon them when looking for a bird feeder part that we were missing (a raccoon or squirrel must have dragged it away).

    Found 10+ piles of skat on several large flattened root mass at the base of some large trees growing along the river. At first thought I wondered if it was a dog but we don’t have one and the neighbors dogs don’t come over our way. Someone else has seen fox tracks in the snow on the next property.

    Last summer, I heard what appeared to be a baby crying, just over the river bank, at 11 PM or so. When I trying to spot it with my headlamp the sound moved away and then came back. Eventually it was further upriver and the sound stopped. I think that it was a fox that had nabbed a rabbit seen in the area.

    It’s why we make sure our cat is in every night and we don’t let him out until daybreak.

    Next summer and fall I’ll set up a game camera nearby and we should be able to get some good photos. Will keep you posted.

    December 14, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    • Alice Pratt

      I’ve seen at least 4 Red Fox sightings in our wooded area yard, in broad daylight….twice very close to our house…about 8 feet away, on the patio, twice with something in it’s mouth.

      December 14, 2018 at 1:51 pm

  7. How do you tell the difference between a gray fox and red fox track?

    December 15, 2018 at 6:48 am

    • Cindy

      Gray fox prints are smaller and have less hair. They are very similar to house cat prints. Their legs are shorter, so each print in the trail is closer together. And they tend to live closer to people – though red fox will too. I think basically all foxes avoid coyotes if possible. And coyotes tend to avoid people (unless they have chicken coops or hunting is bad that year).

      Because of the arrangement of the pads on their feet, all canines have prints that tend to have an “X” in the middle. However. Gray foxes have smaller pads (or because of the less hair) the “X” can look more like a (feline like) downward “C”. Sometimes the bottom pads will make a print that looks a bit like a Mickey Mouse head!

      Red fox prints are smaller than coyote and their prints are fuzzier due to the extra hair. I’ve also read that Red foxes are the 5th fastest land animal! Who knew!

      But the best way to tell is to follow the trail. Sometimes the animal will go under a tree or step on a log and you will get a really clear print. Or will mark. Red fox smells like skunk. Gray fox like cheese. And coyote like a nice, mild, turpentine cleaner. 😁

      Red foxes DO make that scary, repeated, bird cawl-like, crying sound. It’s territorial, not something they are killing.

      Big piles of scat on or around trees -esp by rivers generally are raccoon latrines. Raccoon scat is the only type you should not smell or handle.

      ALL animal prints you find will vary depending on the age of the print, type of substrate (hard snow, soft snow, mud, etc), and actions of the animal (running, sliding, spreading their feet, etc). And most animals step their back paws into the tracks of their front paws – further confusing things. AND some will often use prints and trails from other animals – to further save energy.

      December 20, 2018 at 8:24 am

      • WOW! Thanks for all that info!

        December 20, 2018 at 8:57 am

Leave a Reply to Kathie Fiveash Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s