Since there are no gray foxes at the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, and I don’t expect any to make it their home range until possibly late November through early January 2019. As such I will continue substituting varied information about select events and the wildlife that make the baylands their home.
Over the past several months a red fox has shown up before our trail cameras. Since the videos are black and white night shots, it is difficult to tell if there is but one fox or two, meaning a mated pair.
Gray Fox Parenting – Cute and Dark – Part III
Early that morning I met with a reporter who was doing a story about my work with the gray foxes and the corridors woven throughout the edge of the San Francisco Bay. We were there in what I call Fox Hollow Hill, the location where Mama Bold and Gray had decided to hang out for several weeks. Their five young pups were around and about, a couple of them chasing each other in turn, others settling under the edge of dead branches watching as we neared them.
Off along the back road, a fox came trotting toward us. At first, it was difficult to make out which fox it was but as it drew near, I recognized Gray and he carried a dead rodent in his jaws. I nudged the reporter and said, “Look, that’s Gray and he’s bringing in some food for them.” Gray dropped off the squirrel near his pups and all five of them dashed over to it and with screaming cries and sharp yips, and a flurry of pup fur, all of the pups at once tore at each other and at the squirrel. Mama and Gray had yet to teach their litter about the hierarchy, or maybe even the two parents were letting the pups battle it out so as to eventually learn how to feed in an orderly manner.
Generally, when the pups were still but “balls” of gray to black fur the master hunter Gray would forage out across the marsh, or back under the canopy of bushes and trees to hunt and catch food, while Mama Bold usually lay off somewhere somewhat distant from her pups. At this stage, in their growth, she only came to them when it was time to nurse. Often Gray came to her lying beneath the tall Italian Buckthorn bush, gave her a nudge then looking back toward the natal den. Mama stood, stretched, nuzzled Gray under his chin and seemingly, reluctantly she walked back into the brush under the Alkaline Salt Bush. Later, once the pups were ready to learn how to hunt, Mama and Gray hunted together, often accompanied by the alpha pup of the litter.
Meanwhile over along the creek, Midget, the only pup that Cute and Dark had that year in 2014 was a fighter. In contrast to Mama Bold and Gray, Cute and Dark seemingly did nothing together. There were times when Dark would vanish from the area down along the creek leaving Cute alone. I often found her lying under the low hanging willows at overflow channel marker number 20.
I witnessed times when Dark was in the region when Cute wanted his attention. She’d become highly submissive: ear laid back on her head, belly low to the ground and she’d slink along toward him, begging for attention. On rare occasions, he accommodated her but more often than not he’d walk off, back under the brush to be alone. At times like that, I suspect that Cute walked off with hurt feelings, the feeling that her mate had just rejected her.
On several occasions, back in the big clearing deep in the brush and woods, Cute pinned down her pup Midget and give him an ear cleaning. When he wouldn’t hold still, she’d plant her paw on his head and shove him down so that he’d be still enough to get his ears cleaned. The moment that Cute finished, Midget ran for the safety of the blackberry bushes on the perimeter of the clearing. If several of the foxes were there lying in the clearing, sometimes Dark showed up, but he’d remain off and back toward the brush whereas the others, including his mate, gathered