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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Journals Lewis and Clark as Naturalists

Red Fox

The Corps did see foxes and believed that they were seeing new species, colored differently from the familiar red fox in the eastern United States.  More recently, it has been determined that some of these sightings were color variants of a single species, Vulpes vulpes.

Capt. Lewis, May 31, 1805--I saw near those bluffs the most beautifull fox that I ever beheld, the colours appeared to me to be a fine orrange yellow, white and black; I endevoured to kill this anamal but it discovered me at a considerable distance, and finding that I could get no nearer, I fired on him as he ran, and missed him; he concealed himself under the rocks of the clift; it appeared to me to be about the size of the common red fox of the Atlantic states, or reather smaller that the large fox common to this country; convinced I am that it is a distinct species.

Capt. Clark, February 19, 1806--The Silver Fox. this animale is very rare even in the countrey where it exists, I have never seen more than the skins of this animal and those were in the possession of the nativs of the woody country below the Great falls of the Columbia, from which I think it most probably they are the inhabitants of the woody country exclusively. from the skins, it appeared to be about the size of the large red Fox of the plains and much of its form with a large tail. the legs I think somewhat longer it has a fine long deep fur poil [pile]. the poil is of a dark lead colour and the long hairs intermixed with it, are either white or black at the lower part, and white at top, the whole mixture forming and butifull silver Grey. I think this is the handsomest of all the Fox species, except a species of which I saw one running, and Capt Lewis had a good view of another of the same species on the Missouri near the natural walls. The large red fox of the plains, and the Kit fox are the same which we met with on the Missouri and are the inhabitants almost exclusively of the open plains, or of the copse of bushes within the plain country. the Common red or grey fox of the United States is also found in the woody country on this coast, nor does it appear to be altered in respect to it's fur colour or any other particular. we have seen none of the large red fox.

Capt. Lewis, February 21, 1806--The Silver fox this animal is very rare even in the country where it exists; I have never seen more than the Skins of this animal and those were in the possession of the natives of the woody Country below the great falls of the Columbia from which I think that it is most probably they are the inhabitant of the woody country exclusively. from the skin it appeared to be about the size of the large red Fox of the plains and much of it's form with a large tail. the legs I think somewhat longer. it has a fine long deep fur poil [pile]. the poil is of a dark lead colour and the long hairs intermixed with it are either white or black at the lower part and white at the top, the whole mixture forming and beautifull silver grey. I think this the most beautifull of all the Foxes except [a] species of which I saw one only on the Missouri near the natural walls. the large red fox of the plains and the Kit fox are the same which we met with on the Missouri and are the inhabitants almost exclusively of the open plains, or of the cops[e] of brush within the p[l]ain country. The Common red fox of the United States is also found in the woody country on this coast, nor does it appear to be altered in rispect to it's fur colour or any other particular.

In April 1805, they prepared specimens for shipment to President Jefferson; this shipment included skins that they identified as red fox.

Capt. Clark, April 3, 1805--we are all day engaged in packing up Sundery articles to be sent to the President of the U.S. . . .

Box No 2, Contains . . .

a red fox Skin Containing a Magpie

. . . .

13 red fox Skins

 
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