Gray Fox Report for April 2018
Urban Gray Fox’s Parenting: Not All the Same – Part I
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. I will continue substituting varied information about select events and the wildlife that make the baylands their home.
Gray Fox Parenting – Part I
Parenting? Gray foxes? As my study on gray fox behavior at the baylands evolved, so too did my thinking about these lethal predators. Over a period of about six to eight months, they came to trust me, and each fox began exhibiting its own “personality.” (From here forward I will refer to personality as foxinality for after all they are foxes, not persons.)
One morning the alpha male Squat came from the brush and sat at the edge of the dirt road. He kept looking back into the brush behind him. A few minutes later a pup emerged, went to Squat, gave him a fox-kiss, then looked across the road at me. It seemed as if Squat had intentionally introduced his pup. Several days later she came alone from the brush, walked halfway across the old dirt road and stood there just looking at me as though to say, “Who and what are you?” Her siblings remained tucked back in the brush watching. She was nearly fearless and so I named her Bold. Once she and her mate had their own litter, I called her Mama Bold.
Within her second year, she teamed up with a young male that I came to call Gray the Master Hunter. His coloration leaned way into the gray side with very little rusty red around his ears. The first time that I saw them together was moments after Bold had fought and defeated her father, thus taking possession of her natal home range. Standing off at the edge of the marsh, Gray watched as Bold fought her father. The instant that the furious battle ended, Bold ran to Gray and the two of them left along the marsh’s edge. From that point onward, until the two of them died in 2016, they lived and worked together. I watched and documented their caring interactions with one another and their individual relationships with their pups.
Bold had five pups that first year and for every year after that but with one exception when she had four. Shortly after her pups were born, I saw that Gray did most of the hunting, while Mama Bold stayed some 10 to 20 yards away from the natal den where her pups were growing up. At first, I didn’t understand why she kept such a distance, but as they rapidly grew, I saw that sometimes Mama Bold bled around her nipples. It dawned on me that those pup’s teeth must be like needles piercing her six breasts as they nursed. That was the reason why she didn’t stay close to them but Gray did take care of the duties directly in the natal den and when it was time for Mama Bold to nurse, he’d come from the den, nudge her and she’d slip back into the brush to nurse.
Gray brought home the mice, the woodrats, an occasional jackrabbit, a pheasant; the necessary protein for their young. When the pups waited in line to get some of the flesh that Gray had delivered, he and Mama left them and together they lay in a small clearing. Often Gray sprawled out on the dry grass and she snuggled up to him and rested her head on his stomach. Often lying there like that, they took a nap. It was obvious to me that these two gray foxes liked each other, or maybe we could go so far as to say that they loved each other and they would do anything for the other one and their pups. They were caring, loving parents.
In next month’s Gray Fox Report, I will introduce you to another pair of gray foxes that lived on Matadero Creek. This pair’s relationship was rather distinct and different from that of Mama Bold and Gray.
Gray Foxes General Health
To date, no gray foxes at the Palo Alto baylands during April.
Total Numbers Of Gray Foxes in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve
Update for the Urban Wildlife Research Project – Greg Kerekes & Bill Leikam
Next public presentation by Bill “The Fox Guy” Leikam: A Year with the Urban Gray Fox – has not yet been scheduled
- Check out our Facebook page.
- If you haven’t had a chance to read at least 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
“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.” Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia
“Failure is a wonderful professor.” From my book Autobiography of a Gray Fox, 2017 wcl
Within the seeds of philosophy, the forest of science is born. wcl – 2018