Gray Fox Report: April 2020
Those Complex Gray Foxes
The month of April is one of the most confusing and awkward times in the life of a gray fox documentarian. It feels as if I have to rush between keeping track of the adults whose behavior changes from time to time, while at the same time looking for concrete signs as to whether the pair of gray foxes have pups, and to just simply keep up with the gray fox’s male Laimos and female Big Eyes and their changes.
In last month’s issue of the Gray Fox Report, I noted that Big Eyes had suddenly turned hyper-skittish thus possibly suggesting that she had a litter of pups. That prepared me this past month to carefully locate three trail cameras in critical areas where the foxes pass through. Of those three cameras, number five is the most likely one to record a pup and maybe as many as four pups, emerging from the brush from under the huge fallen eucalyptus tree. Two weeks ago, just there under the tangle of that fallen tree, Laimos usually slipped from the brush and there he’d often sit, or lay, or on occasion he’d walk about and climb up into the tree. He no longer passes through there.
With both foxes still claiming the region as their home range, it is typical gray fox behavior that within about 20 days after giving birth to their litter, the female Big Eyes will relocate their den. During the course of the eight to nine months while the pups are being trained, and before dispersal, this shifting of the den sites will continue. (One-year Mama Bold and Gray moved their location eight times.) When that happens, it is often difficult to locate their new hang-out area.
Another factor that makes this even more complicated is that on March 8th daylight saving time kicked in. We had to move our clocks back an hour, but of course the foxes don’t pay mind to that. They simply continue with their biorhythms of wakefulness and sleep. Before the clocks were turned back, I regularly came into the area where the foxes hung out by between 3:45 and 4:15 in the afternoon. During this time period, Laimos often made an appearance. There were times when he’d climb into the upper branches of the fallen tree and fall asleep where two branches formed a Y. Having seen that behavior numerous times, around 4:00 PM was his regular sleeping time, although not always. Now, however, he doesn’t show up and that might be because he’s still sleeping. By his internal clock, it’s not 4:00 PM, but it’s 3 PM, his time to sleep. To reinforce that notion, on the trail cameras in the region, he frequently passes through under the fallen tree between about 5:30 and 6:00 PM. It is very rare that Big Eyes makes an appearance anywhere in the vicinity.
That leaves us with several scenarios:
- He is sleeping and not coming out at the time that I am there,
- He and Big Eyes have moved their den to a distant location, or
- The foxes have moved and they are asleep.
At this point I have no idea which of the scenarios is the factual one, and yet, knowing something about their general behavior, I have a hunch that it might be number three. Until I have direct, concrete data, I just keep on documenting their behavior even when I don’t see them live and I keep hoping that they do have a litter back there in the woods that they call home.
Until next month, I hope that your endeavors provoke meaningful thought, are productive, and emotionally rewarding.
Gray Foxes General Health
This pair is young, most likely first-year dispersals. They appear to be vibrant and healthy. I’ve noticed that this pair do not have intestinal worms like many foxes living along the bay. One can tell if a fox has worms because their scat contains the worm’s eggs; a white rice like sized item in their scat.
Total Numbers of Gray Foxes in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve
As of April 2020, we have two adult gray foxes living in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.
Update for the Urban Wildlife Research Project
We need your generous donation be it one dollar or 5,000 dollars so that we can begin the collaring project.
My 80th birthday is coming up and so their’s a fundraiser for the UWRP on Facebook at the moment. See https://www.facebook.com/donate/163771915059819/ and please contribute. And while you’re there, check out our Facebook page.
Or you can donate through PayPal on our website ( Urban Wildlife Research Project), check out the short video and go to the donate button on the left of the page. Your donation is tax deductible. The collaring project needs $35,000 and here’s the reason why donate to uwrp?
Here’s a new article that quotes me about aspects of the gray fox. It’s called “Good Neighbor,” by Nancy Baron in Nature-Hood a column in the Coastal View out of Carpinteria, California. http://www.coastalview.com/opinion/good-neighbors/article_c0761a50-8ff1-11ea-820a-cb6590ca5572.html?fbclid=IwAR3zppT1fccMfxw_2RPFuiMzIKmxFBFbQfhFhvFId3lidWQfJWhrD_Vi5PsI I am scheduled to give a presentation at Safari West in July. So far that event has not been cancelled. I will keep the readers of this report updated as things change.
- Check out our Facebook page.
- If you haven’t had a chance to read some of the articles that have been written about our study of gray fox behavior and our corridor work, click on these links as they will take you to the source: Bill Leikam – The Fox Guy, and Greg Kerekes & URWP
Section III: Gray Fox, Baylands Goals
Within the permit that allows the Urban Wildlife Research Project to conduct its study of the behavior of the gray fox at the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, the objectives covered area:
- Monitoring of urban gray fox Denning sites in Palo Alto Baylands.
This is being accomplished during the period when the gray foxes use a den site. It is one of the prime locations for gathering most of the behavioral data of the litter and for adults alike.
- Assessment of status and population trends of Baylands urban gray foxes
Since November and December of 2016, there have been no resident gray foxes at the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.
- Identification of habitat features that promote the presence of urban gray foxes
After considering this and talking with people who know how to restore habitats, we need to assess what kinds of plants, including the Alkaline Salt Bush, would grow best along the edge of the saltwater channel and alongside the marsh. We need to grow a permanent habitat that contains the corridors and plant it as soon as possible. We’ll keep an eye on this as this is a critical link between the southern region of the Baylands and the northern region.
- Assessment of reproductive success and identification of factors that promote successful reproduction
Open up the pinch-point along Matadero Creek by developing thickets that link one area to another, instead of the present “islands”.
- Identification and assessment of possible dispersal travel routes.
Presently there can only be guesses as to dispersal travel routes. We intend to make this important question much more concrete when we attain our collaring/take/capture permit from the Department of Fish & Wildlife.
Until next month, I hope that your endeavors provoke thought, are productive, and are rewarding. Take care.
Bill Leikam – The Fox Guy
CEO & President,
Urban Wildlife Research Project
A Nonprofit 501 C3