We here at the Urban Wildlife Research Project (UWRP) are proud to announce that we are now a nonprofit 501(c)(3). You can, therefore, write off from your taxes your donations to the UWRP. If you wish to have a formal letter from us indicating that you have donated, get in touch with us directly, give us your mailing address or your email address and we will send you the letter acknowledging receipt of your donation. it will be honored by the IRS and your state’s tax board. With all that said, please read about our newest project and how we intend to increase the health of all wildlife along the western edge of the San Francisco Bay. This work is vital but before we can begin this phase of our work, we need to raise enough money to purchase the materials needed to take that next step forward.
The Fabric of Bonding
The Tragedy of Two Pups: Dark Face & Bright Eyes
Submitted by William C. Leikam
President & Co-founder
This is a true story as based on log entries at the time when the following occurred.
Dark Face & Bright Eyes were born out in the brush along Matadero Creek to Little One and her mate Creek in April of 2013. I watched and photographed them as they grew from being mere bundles of grayish fuzz into taking on the rusty and gray peppered sides, colors of adulthood. When small, their pudgy noses marked them as pups, but as they grew that canine nose pushed out. All the while they were growing up, these two played together, running, chasing, wrestling and when they finally got the knack of climbing trees, down in the Matadero Creek Floodplain these two gray foxes sometimes took to chasing each other up and down tall eucalyptus trees. Nearby there was a patch of dead willow trees with brittle branches. That’s where the young male Dark Face loved to chase his sister Bright Eyes.
It was obvious as I watched these two along with Creek and Little One who lay about nearby, that they were a close family, unlike some of the other fox families in the region. It occurred to me that through their playfulness the glue that held them together was that they truly enjoyed each other’s company even when they were not chasing or wrestling. They were family in the deep meaning of that word. That’s the only conclusion I could reach.
There were differences in these two gray fox’s foxsonalities. For instance, Bright Eyes was much more inquisitive, much more curious about things she’d never before seen like my handkerchief. Dark Face paid little attention to it the first time I tossed it to the dirt road just to see how they might react. Bright Eyes went over to it, sniffed it, then took it in her mouth and ran with it under a nearby coyote bush. I never saw that handkerchief again.
From my Gray Fox Log on September 1, 2013, at around 7:45 AM, as I left the area, I saw at the roadside a dead gray fox. Previously I had seen something lying beside the road, but ignored it, simply shut it out of my mind. I stopped, tossed it away from the road right near a dirty green power transformer. The fox looked like it was in good shape, as it hadn’t been run over. I don’t think it died right away either because it was laying on its stomach with its front legs extended forward and its hind legs extended back. I checked. It was a female. I decided it was one of the wild foxes from out on the Renzel Wetlands.
Although I reported the dead fox to the supervision ranger, expecting them to pick it up right away, it lay there for three full days. During that time, I wondered where Bright Eyes was. She was not playing with Dark Face. Little One and Creek did not come from the brush as was usual. They had vanished. Dark Face limped slightly, but more importantly, as he walked he looked like he carried a heavy load. Most of the time I found him down in the floodplain near the trees where they used to play. With Bright Eyes gone, Dark Face seemed to carry a load, one that wiped from life the joy, the play, the kinship, the hope, the bond that he and his sister had once enjoyed.
It was on the third day that I concluded that the decaying female gray fox out along East Bayshore Road by the green power unit was indeed Bright Eyes. My heart briefly sank. It was only then that I fully understood that she was dead and for the past three days I had been in denial. The truth lay heavy with me it came with seeing the truth of that gray fox Bright Eyes there in an eddy on the river of time had left a family, especially Dark Face, in mourning.
From it all, I conjured a scenario that blossomed like this: Sometime during that night, Bright Eyes and Dark Face were probably chasing each other out along East Bayshore Road, playing on the warm asphalt when a deep sound raced from nowhere, tossing her off to the side of the road and there she shook and sighed. Dark Face may have been clipped, or maybe the tire of that deadly car had hit his paw, thus his limp.
As I put it all together, I saw how bonded these foxes were and just what happens when such a bond is bloodied by a car, by a hunter, by a trapper, by a poacher, or a fight with another; anything that kills and separates. Such emotional bonding plays out across the world of wildlife be they wolves, be they bears, be they raccoons, or most any other animal that walks this Earth including ourselves. We humans must begin to accept all other animals as having emotions, as having thoughts, of enjoying life much the same as you and I.
Along with the city of Palo Alto’s climate action plan, they will have to consider establishing wildlife corridors within the city. As the bay inundates large portions of the bay-lands, it will push all of the wildlife that is presently around the edge of the bay into the cities. This wildlife will need places to live, corridors to move from one place to another, hunting grounds, territories, etc. What will the Palo Alto do to accommodate them? How will Palo Alto educate the people whose backyards have become a part of the wildlife habitat? We are going to have to learn to live side-by-side and do so peacefully. How will Palo Alto address these issues with the people who will be affected before they find that their property contains foxes, raccoons, opossums, etc?
Take a look at this short video of Bill Leikam, the Fox Guy, being interviewed on the trail by Matt Dolkas of POST. Scroll down the page a bit and you can read an expanded text on what the Fox Guy and the Urban Wildlife Research Project are doing. Pass it on to friends and family. Video https://openspacetrust.org/blog/fox-guy/
Animals that are adapting to civilization or venturing into human inhabited areas seeking food, water, and shelter, are at risk of consuming a poisoned rodent and dying as a result of Secondary Rodenticide Poisoning. This includes predatory wildlife including birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians and even your pets. Many pets and humans have had fatal encounters with the poison bait and it has proven in many cases, unsafe to use indoors.
In my neck of the woods, sunny California, there are over 23 species of carnivorous mammals and over 40 species of predatory birds. These creatures feast on the 100+ different species of small rodent like mammals, including: mice, voles, gophers, and squirrels; all potential targets for rodenticide.
Last week in California news, two disturbing stories surfaced relating to rodenticide poisoning. First, a Red-tailed Hawk in a Safeway parking lot in S.F. was seen picking up and eating a deceased mouse it found next to a baiting station. Often, the creatures that ingest the poison can be found exposed, in search of water or dead outside of rodenticide bait stations, easy pickings for hungry predators.
Another tragic example of Secondary Rodenticide poisoning, came from Los Angeles: 3 Dead Mountain Lions in the Santa Monica Mountains in L.A. , one of the three was confirmed dead from rodent poison. Unfortunately, earlier this year UWRP deduced that pups of a Gray Fox family in Silicon Valley may have suffered the same fate. And, according to The Felidae Conservation Fund, there are similar issues with Bobcats in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
These instances cannot go unrecognized.
Change needs to happen if we are to attempt to co-exist with wildlife. “Prevention is the key”, Rebecca Dmytryk of Humane Wildlife Control explains,”instead of rodenticide, focus on what attracts the rodents to your property.”
- Prevent access to shelter, by sealing entrances and cavities outside and inside with wire mesh, wood paneling, steel wool, and expanding foam. Clean up woodpiles and yard debris.
- Eliminate the rodent’s food and water sources. Do not feed pets outside and leave food unattended. Clean up spilled bird seed at the feeder. Remove English Ivy which provides food, water, and shelter year round for rats and mice.
- As far as traps go T-Rex easy set spring loaded trap is recommended, only use snap kill traps indoors and do not use inhumane sticky traps. Wildlife such as bats, birds, lizards, skunks, raccoons and others may encounter a trap outside.
- Install a Barn owl box! However, before installing an owl box, make sure your neighbors are not using Rodenticide, so you don’t attract an owl to an unsafe area.
In conclusion, human ingenuity has allowed us to be able to out smart the little rodents that sometimes plague our lives, without damaging the food chain.
Please consider compassionate alternatives and aid the effort to educate citizens on the dangers and impacts of Rodenticides to our environment.
Feel empowered to take this information to your employer if you see rodent bait stations outside your place of work.
A few years ago, I noticed bait stations placed in a private soccer field belonging to a tech company, with a campus along the Guadalupe River in Silicon Valley. UWRP and Santa Clara Valley Audubon, approached Philips electronics regarding the existence of Burrowing Owls and Gray Foxes in the vicinity of rodent bait stations on their property. Corresponding emails resulted in Philips changing to non-poisonous rodent control methods, as well as the removal of their poison bait stations from around their Silicon Valley LED campus.
Change is quick once people realize the impact Rodenticides are having on the environment. The key is education.
Written and edited by:
Greg and Alexandria Kerekez
Here are some great educational resources about the impacts of rodenticide and humane alternatives:
Watch the Gray Foxes of Silicon Valley to hear from expert Rebecca Dmytryk on Co-existing with wildlife.
For short, groovy, educational videos by Dance Naturalist John Griffith regarding this topic, watch “Rat Poisons Suck!”
and “Sticky Trap Catches Lizard”
Don’t forget to Share this article and the National Parks Awareness Infographic to broaden the awareness of the negative impacts of Rodenticides.
Today Bill and I decided to check out the golf course. We went mid-afternoon, not the typical foxing time, and began walking the perimeter of the course. We then entered the golf course nursery, after a few minutes we thought we were out of luck, when we turned to leave we noticed this Gray Fox curled up on a roll of astroturf. We watched from 20 yards as the fox changed positions, yawned, and went to sleep.
Foxes can commonly be found in golf courses due to the vegetation and water incorporated into the course and the fox food such as mice, geese and coots that the green grass attracts. Though these courses can offer habitat, one factor against the fox is the common use of Rodenticide to limit the burrowing rodents on the green. Foxes and other predators in turn eat the poisoned rodents and become poisoned themselves. UWRP supports the ban of rodenticides and urges golf courses to encourage owls and foxes to inhabit the course to control rodents naturally. Live trapping is also an option, one golf course we monitor in Palo Alto uses live traps with flags to alert when the trap has been set off. The foxes there have learned that flag means rodent and the golf course maintenance crew has to change fewer traps. Mother nature is the key, not poison.
Today we arrived to the Landfill and got reports from Frank that foxes were seen entering the woodpile multiple days in a row. We checked out the pile and noticed many signs of fox including multiple waterfowl carcasses. The very next day we arrived to the woodpile at sunrise and caught a glimpse of a fox entering the woodpile.
We arrived to the water plant later in the morning and a plant worker told us that foxes were seen coming in and out of this hole in some roots by their tool shed in the middle of the night. Adjacent to this burrow is a parking lot and multiple buildings with humans working 24hrs a day. This species can tolerate living in close proximity to humans, if their is a secure enough den site and enough foraging habitat.
This morning we were greeted by 2 pups. They emerged from the bunchgrass and posed. They began prancing and chasing each other around Fox Hill. Bill and I searched for new signs of fox activity around the territory. We look for wildlife trails, tracks, scat, cashed food, and animal remains; any clue that might give us an insight into the foxes behavior. Today we found what appeared to be a Gosling carcass. We have had families of Geese appear on our trail cameras within den fox territory recently, looks like the fox sniffed them out. Also found in foxland today was a freshly eaten duck egg and a large piece of tinfoil brought over from the landfill.
Fox Blog Post 1: 6/3/12
Meet Squat the Gray Fox. Returning to his South Bay den just before sunrise, after a night of hunting and foraging. We waited over an hour along the fox trail towards Squat’s den. Sure enough at 6:52am, Squat came trotting down the trail towards us. My friend and local fox expert, Bill, called “Hey little fox…” Squat cautiously came over to check us out. Bill has known Squat since birth and appropriately named him, as he frequently marks his territory by squatting on his right leg. Squat has a mate and two pups as of 6-3-2012.