Location: Public access areas along the levee road skirting Matadero Creek. Last report – 12/27/2013
(Picture #1: Helper Female #2, Creek vaulting over a 10 foot channel)
As mentioned in my last report and as a quick reminder I have been hampered in my monitoring of the gray foxes due to having my Palo Alto City’s permit withdrawn. The city required that I attain a Department of Fish & Wildlife Scientific Collection Permit before I could continue my work. A year has passed with no permit in sight. Because of this, I have enlisted Senator Jerry Hill’s staff to try to trace it down. Even they are having difficulties but the last word on this is that the State Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to find my application.
A little aside here about mating behavior. Normally, in low to medium density environments, gray foxes tend to be monogamous but where there are high density populations monogamy breaks down in many but not all cases. (There are always exceptions to these kinds of generalities.)
Over this past month, the question of which of the females will den up this year with Creek, has been answered. Creek and Helper have moved out onto the Renzel Wetlands and have denned up near or within the ITT Facility. Now the question becomes what will Little One do since she, as far as I can tell to date, has no mate? Will she take on the role of helper female to Creek and Helper once they have their litter? In other words will the roles be flipped this coming season? Will she find herself a mate out there on the floodplain? I’m tracking that issue now.
January and February are interesting months because in the environment that I am studying, until very recently there are no territories marked and there won’t be until most of the dispersing foxes from last season’s litter either move through or they find a mate and sufficient range to feed their litter. If we look at this it makes sense: The young, the first year gray foxes, have been moving out to find their own mates and their own territory. Therefore, the animal corridors and byways through the riparian (creek-like) areas are open from about November through January. This allows these dispersing gray foxes free access to territories further afield. Once dispersal has taken place, then territories will be marked and defended. However, if a young gray fox decides to stay in an area for too long, it will be urged along by the dominant gray in the area. Recently, I saw just such an encounter. Creek the alpha male met with another fox that had been around for three days prior. They fought. At one point in that intense fight the two of them were up on their hind legs pounding each other with their paws like boxers. I never saw the intruder after that.
In a nutshell, that’s what’s happening. Please feel free to send me any comments or questions.
Finally, if you know of an organization that would like to have me come and present my talk “A Year with the Urban Gray Fox” I would much appreciate the referral. My photographer partner in the Urban Wildlife Research Project, Greg Kerekez, also has a presentation on Burrowing Owls and more. Not only do we present to corporations, and organizations, but we will also come to people’s homes to present this. Let me know if you want to invite your friends over for a presentation on the Gray Fox. Just reply to this email.
Bill Leikam, aka The Fox Guy
Director: Independent Urban Gray Fox Research Project