Foxes are versatile and diverse. Did you know that there are five species of fox in the continental United States alone and over 20 worldwide? Some species like red foxes cover many habitats and commingle with human habitation. Other species like the swift fox remain in a particular habitat. Let’s review a few species to get a glimpse of the unique power and symbolism of the talented fox.
Gray Fox Spirit Animal Camouflage
The most prolific and common fox native to North America, the gray fox, is a fairly secretive creature that prefers to stick to woodlands and rarely venture into the open. She is identified by the black stripe down her back and tail, gray and black peppered coat on her back, and black-tipped tail. Her coat does include other colors such as white, red, and orange and works as great camouflage. Gray fox symbolism speaks of disappearing into the background and the costumes we wear. If you are exploring the ways you go unnoticed, the gray fox is a great companion. There is power in being invisible.
Gray fox the only fox that can climb trees. Her strong association with trees reminds us that we need deep roots to climb to higher heights. As places that provide shelter and protection, forests can symbolize darkness and chaos or sanctuary and introversion. The gray fox blends right in to calm or chaos and helps us navigate the gray areas of our lives.
Red Fox Symbolism & Kitsune
The widest ranging of any fox species, the red fox is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced to North America by European settlers. She is distinguished by her red coat, black socks on her front feet, and bushy tail with a white tip. Red fox is the fox most commonly pictured stealing from the hen house and she is very comfortable in urban environments. Chances are if you saw a fox in your neighborhood that it’s a red fox.
Red fox is commonly the clever trickster in fairytales that makes away with some prize or another. Her clever and swift nature are so strong that she is the main focus of fox hound hunts. It takes an entire pack of dogs and herd of men on horseback to have a chance at tracking her down. If red fox spirit animal has made it into your life, now is a good time to examine your own cleverness. Who are you outsmarting today? Sometimes we are too clever for our own good and other times we need to think way outside the box.
Kitsune is the name of two species of red fox in China. In Chinese folklore, kitsune are magical beings who are extremely wise. These are the foxes that guard the temples of the goddess Inari and travel with her. There is the belief that kitsune shape-shift into beautiful women at the age of 50 years. There are fairytales of hunters who discover that their wives are actually foxes. These lady foxes exhibit seductive cunning that is associated with the Don Juan archetype.
Island Fox Isolation
Descended from gray foxes, the island fox is a rare species of fox that is making a comeback from the brink of extinction. She looks very similar to the gray fox, but like many island natives, she is smaller and genetically distinct. The island fox spirit animal teaches us how the camouflage we wear can cause great isolation. This is both beneficial and challenging. If you are feeling alone, now might be the time to drop all the costumes you carry and come out of hiding. If you need some alone time, camouflage is the perfect medicine. Isolation reminds us of our own uniqueness and brings us closer to our true self. This is the species of fox I write about in Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks.
Swift & Kit Fox Symbolism
The swift fox is native to the grasslands of North America and does not adapt well to other environments or human impact on the land. The kit fox is a close relative and is native to arid habitats such as deserts and chaparral landscapes. Such specialization in habitat makes the swift and kit fox examples of the power of getting specific. Both species live in open habitats, but are hard to spot because they are nocturnal and in remote areas.
Swift foxes are dependent on their dens as hiding spots from predators. In looking at the meaning of these foxes, the need to find sanctuary and hide away in the dark will be more prevalent. You will likely see one of these foxes on a visit to a national monument, state park or some other protected wild habitat.
Mixed Species of Fox
Different species of fox hybridize and create crosses. The fox pictured at the top of this post is likely a hybrid of a gray and red fox as she carries characteristics of both. This shows us that all of the qualities mentioned above may come in when considering fox symbolism. It is up to you to use your discriminating nose to determine which qualities most resonate with you.
Adaptability and Home
One of the most fascinating things I learned about foxes during my 10 month tenure caring for a group of them is that they are extremely adaptable in their diets. They eat everything from fruits to bugs to carrion to eggs to quail to mice and rabbits. One of the best parts of my day was making up different meals for them. This adaptability has contributed to their worldwide success and helps them fill an ecological niche apart from their close cousins the coyote and wolf. They are closer to skunks or raccoons in their eating habits, which makes them less dog-like than we might think. This shows that adaptability and the ability to blend into different environments leads to success. How can you cultivate your own adaptability?
Fox is in the canid (dog) family, but in many ways she is more cat- than dog-like. She jumps, leaps, and strides like cats in that smooth and agile way. Her similarity to cats reminds us to not get too entrenched one group or the other. The old dispute between cats and dogs is remedied in fox.
For all her adaptability, fox is usually monogamous and she sticks to a territory near her den the majority of the time. Fox spirit animal reminds us that no matter what costume we wear or shape we’ve shifted into that it is important to know and tend our sense of “home” whatever that might be.
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About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.
I had the best experience this morning I had the opportunity to play with and pet a gray fox. I sat down and she licked my face and rolled over and wanted her belly rubbed.
That sounds amazing Cynthia! What a lucky opportunity. It’s hard to imagine this happening with a wild fox as they are usually very shy with humans. I wonder if it was a domesticated fox? A number of decades ago it used to be pretty common to tame and keep foxes as pets, but many states and counties now ban such activities. There is a lot of concern over foxes carrying and transmitting rabies which obviously poses a health risk for us and our other domestic pets. I have no idea if the fox you met with was wild or domestic, but the whole question has me thinking back to the time I lived on an island and took care of an endangered species of fox that were in a captive breeding program. I tell about this in my book Gracious Wild. The foxes were miserable in the cages. We were saving the species but not necessarily the individuals. We weren’t allowed to interact with the foxes as to keep them as wild as possible, and that wasn’t too hard because they really wanted nothing to do with us. I do know that hand-reared fox pups can be more sociable, but also very energetic and nearly impossible to keep entertained in a domestic environment. The interface between us and wild animals is always tricky. We so long to touch and interact with them, while also understanding that they can never be truly happy in our world. I have two mustangs and even though they have been with humans for almost 20 years and are well mannered, there are still moments when I see the untamable part of their spirits.
I saw a rare black fox 2 weeks ago. Strange that only 2 out of 4 of us who were right there saw it. What is the meaning of a black fox?
The color black is representative of mystery, the unconscious and the void (the place where creation comes from). We think of the color black as invisible in darkness, but the total darkness of the new moon is the only time this fox would go unseen. This is very similar to the black panther’s medicine. Most of the time, a black animal is quite visible somewhat negating the message of camouflage associated with fox. Seeing a black fox could be about seeing the mystery but still not knowing what to make of it. There is an interplay here between seeing and not seeing, being seen and not wanting to be seen. The fact that only 2 of the 4 of you demonstrates this truth that what resides in the shadow can become visible, but not to everyone and not all the time. Many Blessings, Stacey
Can you tell me ir the fox is MySpace Spirite Animal recaude i Heather the Internet and itunes sais that is most likely that it appears in your dreams and several times I had have the fox in my dreams and I took a test and it said that I was 76% fox and I now that that doesn’t tell me anything but I your want to now how for chore can I know I just feel in my gut that the fox is who I am
Hello Vero, The best advise I can give you is to follow your gut. Our relationship with our spirit animal is a personal one that only we can verify. Part of nurturing that relationship is learning to trust our intuition about it and not relying on any outside source to tell us what is. Blessings to you, Stacey
Stacey, Thanks for your detailed descriptions of the various species and their symbolism. I am visiting my home town, just drove slowly through the cemetary where my parents are buried, and saw a red fox trying to cross the road to get down to the river, then saw it a second time, when I circled back around. So exciting to see this beautiful wild animal right in town, in a small patch of woods, ony a couple blocks from my childhood home! I had earlier asked nature for guidance about some anxiety I’ve been feeling, but hadn’t expected such an exciting answer. The fox was trying to make a transition, from the protective woods, across open road to the river. It was afraid of me, but I would have stopped and watched it with great awe. Maybe in my own current transition to a more public role as spiritual teacher, things aren’t as scary as I think they are.
Lovely synopsis and interpretation of your encounter with the fox MJ! All the best of luck as you move into this new phase of your life. Sincerely, Stacey
I saw a red fox on Vacation last year on the east coast. One week later myself and best buddy, Buster, became ill and I had to let him pass. He was 13 and lived a good life, but now I associate a fox with a bad omen. This evening I walk our property that we purchased and are building a new home. Today was out first dig day and behind a pile of earth I spied the tail end of a grey fox (in Ohio) ducking into the tree line of the woods. Now I am concerned it is a bad omen for our new build. Your thoughts?
Hello Jenni, When the timing works out like that it can be really hard not to develop a negative association with an animal sighting. Remember that the encounters are simply messages. It is the meaning we attach to them that makes them “bad” or “good”. For Buster’s soul, crossing over to the other side may very well have been a blissful experience, so he would have a more positive association with a fox spirit animal. It sounds different, I know, to think how he might view it, but I’m just trying to give an example of the relativity of it all. Stepping back from judging the sightings altogether, I see there is an opportunity to see the fox as an indication that something is coming to an end or a close. Before a new beginning, must come an ending. It is the natural order of things. Winter always proceeds spring. Now might be a good time to think of what you can release and let go of as you move into this new phase of your life. Your buddy Buster I’m sure will be glad to support you from the other side with your work. Best of luck to you and happy building! – Stacey
I had the weirdest dream. I wondering if you can cast some light on the symbolism of the fox in it so I can try to glean what it’s about.
My husband and I moved into a new community that seemed safe enough for us to walk our two ginger cats. One is 8 and the other barely a year (both male). Suddenly there was a fox (regular orange fox) that appeared in the direction that our youngest cat was running. The fox was laying in the grass curled up and didn’t appear to be a threat to the cats but I was concerned and decided we needed to take the boys inside.
Chaos erupted. The youngest kept just out of reach and our 8yo got tangled in his harness (the youngest wasn’t in a harness for some reason). Eventually I got both cats in my arms and turned to my husband to find him reaching down to pet a large (almost wolfish) fox standing by his side. Somehow (both cats are in my arms) I shined a light on the creature by my husband to find that it was black with reflective silver spots in its coat, eyes that reflected white when the light hit them and it was laughing. In my dream I gasped and then my alarm went off ????
Wow Mikel! This is quite an elaborate dream with many layers. Very beautiful. I will offer some ideas. Please discern if they resonate with you. The harness could be a symbol of your energy being harnessed. When you are in your adult self it is tamed, but when you are acting in your childlike nature your energy is not tamed, controlled or harnessed. It is a bit reckless in fact. Fox in general is seen as clever and cunning. Are you tentative about acting in a cunning way or of other people trying to trick you? The black coat of the fox speaks of something lurking in the shadow. This could be some fox-like aspect of yourself that you are afraid to see. The silver spots remind me of small mirrors reflecting back. A good thing to try may be to look for a person in your life that represents the fox in your dream. Is there someone that you have the same level of wariness or distrust for that you held for the fox? Describe what you don’t like about that person, then sit with the possibility that those attributes may be in you. Next, explore how you may embrace and integrate those fox-like aspects of you so that you can befriend them and use them for good. Many Blessings, Stacey
I just had an incredible reiki session with a close friend of mine. He talked about the possibility of soul retrieval, and that some of my energy blocks may be rooted in the trauma I experienced when forced to move from my home as a young teen. This affected me negatively for years but I’ve never really addressed it.
During the session I closed my eyes and experienced this intense animal spirit vision. I was a white fox, and moved through the feeling of dying and my soul fissuring and fracturing, leaving my body broken. I incarnated again as a porcupine and was guided by a huge bear. I was able to reunite with my fox spirit and integrate my fragmented soul energy. I have dreams about animals and my totems have been coyote and mountain lion for a long time, but this was something so vivid and incredible. It might sound nutty but it was real to me.
Do you know any specific symbolism of the white fox? I’ve never shapeshifted so intensely before, but your lines “Fox spirit animal reminds us that no matter what costume we wear or shape we’ve shifted into that it is important to know and tend our sense of “home” whatever that might be” really resonated with me based on my experience.
Hello Fawn, This doesn’t sound a bit nutty to me and I’m glad that you felt that it was worth it to share this experience. When you ask about white fox, you remind me of a species of fox called the Arctic Fox. They, of course, live in the arctic in the company of polar bears, wolves and seals. The symbolism of calling a cold, harsh environment home may speak to you in relation to this manifestation of fox spirit animal. The arctic above the ice is very much a desert. The arctic fox has a thick coat and compact body that is excellent insulation against the cold. She is also extremely resourceful with foraging and can subsist on a wide variety of foods. Her cleverness, keen nose and sharp ears help her find sustenance where it looks as if there’s none. This species of fox spirit animal helps us weather intense storms and times of scarcity with a level, even temperament. In fact, there’s a sweetness and peaceful joy to these little creatures that never seems to dissipate. This speaks of an ability to stay true to one’s sweet nature and stay insulated from what happens on the outside world. You may also want to read my posts on bear symbolism and mountain lion spirit animal. Many Blessings, Stacey
Hi a good friend of mine passed away and after finding out I saw a fox later in the day. The day of the funeral I saw a dead fox on the side of a road. Can anyone give me any insight into this. Many thanks
I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your good friend. I hope you are finding the comfort and support you need as you travel through this grief. The fox spirit animal may be calling you to retreat into the background or disappear into the forest for a time as you heal from this loss. Another perspective may be to reflect back on your friendship. Did the two of you blend into situations or shape-shift together? Or find retreat together? It is up to you to determine if the fox spirit animal is sending a personal message of how to move through this or if the fox is highlighting what was important in your friendship. Either way, seeing a dead animal is not a bad omen, but rather a profound acknowledgement of a transformation that you are moving through in your interior. I always stop and listen and reflect when seeing a dead animal corresponds with a significant event in my life. In some way, I feel they give their lives to bring us the message and help us along in our evolution. Many Blessings to You, Stacey
A few weeks ago, on a Friday night, I was biking home, in the city of Buffalo, NY, from a movie around midnight. As I was passing the college grounds and then a psych center, what appeared to be a dark dog pranced toward me across the grass from a fence. I slowed down, afraid of being chased and bitten, and shouted, “Hey!” The dog turned, showing its profile, and bolted back to the fence. I knew then it was some kind of fox, for its bushy tail, light-colored paws, black nose, lighter chest, but dark brown back and sides. I came to a complete stop, quietly watching the fox as it turned and began prancing again in my general direction. Just then, I saw a bright shooting star pass overhead, over the fox, and then the psych center, heading west. I was relieved when the fox veered away from me, and headed to the road behind me. But, it seemed to be walking sideways, always keeping its eyes on me, seemingly oblivious to the onrushing traffic from the north. I shouted, “No! No! No!…” And, to my relief–and surprise–the fox stopped at the roadside, its eyes fixed upon me. I kept saying, “No No No”, until all of the traffic passed. The fox waited. As soon as I stopped, the fox crossed the road safely, rounded a house, and headed into Delaware Park, behind the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The super moon shown overhead.
I wonder if you can find any significance to this improbable confluence of events: A fox crossing my path in the city, a shooting star, and a super moon at the same time–not to forget that the fox seemingly heeded my lifesaving advice!
Wow Thomas! This is one of those encounters that I expect you’ll be unfolding the meaning of for many years to come. What an astounding confluence of events for sure. The phrase “the stars lined up” comes to mind as I read your well told story. It may worth sitting and reflecting on the times in your life when the stars have aligned for you and you’ve been clever enough to notice and take advantage of the supreme moment. Somehow it seems those occurrences might string together with this one encounter with the fox. You telling the fox “No!” could very well be symbolic of your intuition telling you not to act yet. The theme of looking one direction and heading another is interesting to ponder also. So many layers here to unwrap. I suggest moving around the players… seeing your ego as the fox and you as your intuition and then flipping it the other way around. Most of all, I suggest you have fun and open up allowing multiple messages and meanings to come through this fantastic experience. Many Blessings, Stacey
During my early morning drive to work I would always come across a red fox – 4:15am… on the same road ….. always in darkness before the sun would rise. I had grown fond of this connection. It felt like a magical connection with my possible spirit animal? Well, yesterday I encountered my dear fox, dead on the side of road. I saw her beautiful red coat… her blood all over the street. I’m feeling a sense of sadnesss and panic because I think it may be a bad omen. Can you tell me what this could mean? Thanks for any insight…
Hello Johanna, Finding a dead animal can be upsetting as we feel for the life that was lost and we grieve. I encourage you to honor the life of the fox by not seeing it as a bad omen (don’t turn the loss into a bad thing), but use the loss of the fox’s life as further motivation to dive into the message the animal has for you. Look through the associations with red fox in this article and elsewhere and sit with them in silence. Go deep and truly ask what in this touches something, some hurt, some trouble, or some gift you’re grateful for, in you that needs to be brought out into the light. There is so much more here than meets the eye. Many Blessings, Stacey
I just recently came to London for a month to meet with record labels. Things were moving slowly and I am quite impatient. London came up out of the blue in my life and I followed my gut and came here. I have been here for a little over two weeks and was questioning if it was the right decision. I know something big is about to happen I can feel it and I tried to not let fear win. This is a huge change and I questioned my actions. Over the last two weeks a fox has appeared to me in the flesh always at night and stares right at me. It is a mysterious experience yet calming. Nothing I have read resonates with me. I wanted to know if you could shed light on this.
Hello Samantha, It may be that nothing resonates with you because this is all still stirring in your unconscious. Nighttime is symbolic of the unconscious and fox spirit animal has a way of appearing and disappearing as if into thin air. This knowing you have that you are following may seem similarly as elusive. It could be that you’re being asked to fill in the gaps between with faith. Sometimes we have to move into the darkness and trust. Fox symbolism is about cleverness as well. It is worth reminding yourself of your own clever ability to navigate the unknown. Many Blessings, Stacey
I just recently moved, running from my abusive parents and ex husband. I have only been moved 3 weeks now.
Well I was in my garage painting my daughters dresser when a red fox came right into my garage. She was beautiful. But she took off the moment she saw me.
The following day while looking for Halloween costumes, I saw a framed photo of a fox for sale. It stood out to me that maybe this was a message. But I don’t know what the message could be.
Well, the following night I was picking out my daughters outfit, and it wasn’t until she pointed it out to me, I noticed her shirt had a baby fox on it.
Then, while on my facebook, I had two posts pop up regarding a fox. One was a post of a babies crib decorated with the fox theme, and the other post was just a picture of a baby fox.
I don’t know what the message is or what the fox is trying to tell me.
Unfortunately my ex and my parents have already found out where I’m living, but I don’t think the fox was warning me bc I’m still seeing the fox.
Hello Sara, What a beautiful string of synchronicities in seeing the fox in so many places all in a short period of time. The red fox symbolizes cleverness and outsmarting someone. It sounds like you were trying to outsmart your family. In wishing for the ability to “out fox” them and get away without them finding you, you very well could have called in fox medicine. I encourage you to take this below the surface. It doesn’t have to just be about them knowing where you live, but about them being able to find who you are truly, inside. The fox can help you cleverly evade their attempts to capture your sense of self, and know that who you truly are can never be imprisoned. Good luck and many blessings, Stacey
I saw this fox twice in the city near where i live. He was all beat up and tattered and has a green tag on his ear. i felt a profound sadness upon looking at him. he stopped the second time and stared me in the eye for a few minutes and i talked to him, i said oh you poor thing, you look so hungry and tired. Right now i am going through the pain issues and health concerns, later thinking about it, i almost feel like i was talking to myself, that he was me! Please tell me what you think about this.
Hello Denise, Thank you for sharing your story. You are absolutely right that we can often see ourselves in the animals. They provide beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking mirrors for us. You can serve the memory and spirit of that fox by tending to the tattered and beat aspects of your soul. What would shelter and nourish the neglected aspects of you? Thinking about what you loved to do as a child is a great place to start. Then pick one of those things and commit to doing it for yourself to help nourish your soul back to life. Many Blessings, Stacey
Hi, I was driving a very lonely stretch of road between the Alberta, Canada border and Montana, bordering Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian reservation on New Year’s night. The full moon had just risen slowly over the mountains, and was absolutely spellbinding – huge full fat and golden. Heavy snow had fallen in the past several days and this “short cut” between the border and the main highway was impeccably plowed with steep banks of snow on either side, and perfectly empty except for me in my car. I had already encountered several moose lumbering across the road and about a dozen horses free-ranging. But then near the Cut Bank Valley all of the sudden a swift fox appeared ahead of me in the road trotting/running fast and easily — about 22 miles an hour. The moon was so bright, I could see all the details of this shy little fox perfectly – including the the beautiful dark tipped tail. I grabbed my phone and began snapping photos while I drove. I held back on my speed so as not to pressure the fox, but when I would slow down, the fox would look back over my shoulder as if to tell me “keep up!” So I did. The road steadily gained altitude and still the fox kept up this pace. My dog was transfixed. He is a little sassy mixed breed with a big personality. But he was absolutely silent with his ears up. He stood up and leaned forward on the dashboard to watch the swift fox lead us up the road through the moonlight. More than 5 minutes passed and I slowed again as we crested a pass, or high point where some gates are in place that close or flash in bad weather. At that moment, the lights started flashing red. I was shocked. The sky was perfectly clear and bluebright from the snow and moonlight. The fox turned again over its shoulder and looked at me for a moment, and then easily veered to take a hard left in front of me and dashed into the woods. I drove on and in a few minutes found myself in an intense whiteout and blizzard, literally unlike any I have been caught out in more than 20 years of driving this route. I barely made it in to Browning, Montana and managed to not get stuck or drive off the road with only what seemed like miraculous intervention. The Blackfeet built a nice hotel and casino at the end of this stretch of road some years ago. I pulled in with about 50 other shaken up travelers and was put up for the night in a beautiful, cozy room — safe and sound, while the blizzard raged on. The roads had closed about the time I encountered this little fox. I have hiked all over Glacier, driven all the backways, and never been so lucky to glimpse a swift fox. They are so much more beautiful than I imagined. This one was chubby and healthy with a heavy coat, and a beautiful dark-tipped tail that flicked side to side as they ran. I feel truly blessed with the good fortune of the swift fox, and will never forget the start to this new year for the rest of my life. Wishing all of you a wonderful start and new year too.
Hello West Glacier Girl, You sure have the gift of storytelling! I so enjoyed and was transfixed by your telling. Thank you for transporting me and the other readers here to that moment, that magical evening in the company of this mythical fox. How awesome to see moose on a moonlit night too, and then to arrive safely to a cozy room and bed in the midst of a blizzard. It sounds like for a time that you were transported into another world and had a waking dream experience that will forever live in your heart and imagination. Thank you again for sharing. Many Blessings and Happy New Year! – Stacey
I was driving from NM to Texas and I saw a Red Fox dead on the side of the road. Can you give me some more insight? Thank you