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Donations to Continue Our Vital Work

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.

Gray Fox Report for August 2018

The Fabric of Bonding

The Tragedy of Two Pups: Dark Face & Bright Eyes

Submitted by William C. Leikam

President & Co-founder

wcleikam@gmail.com

 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.

 

Subject: REPORT: Gray Fox Report for June 2018

 

Our vision is a San Francisco Bay Area Wildlife Corridor. UWRP notes that as Silicon Valley’s human population, development, and sea level increases, it is of utmost importance that the wildlife thoroughfares are identified and protected, thus maintaining California’s natural genetic diversity.
Preface:

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.

Section I

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

 

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Cities & Sea Level Rise

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?

Rodenticide: Impacts and Alternatives

Cat with mouseThe food chain is sacred, continual, and encompassing. Rodenticides are a major threat to food chains around the world.

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.

Bold(female) with Rabbit Bill Leikam ©2013
Bill Leikam ©2013

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.

 

IMG_5859Last 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.

 

RodentcideAnother 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.”

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

©Greg Kerekes 5 WBO ChicksUWRP        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.

Take Action!

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:

RaptorsaretheSolution.org and wildcarebayarea.org

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.

Sleeping Golf Course Fox 4/11/12

Golf Course Fox

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.Sleeping Fox

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.