With Pups Come Changes
During August I thought that I was going to have to retract the retraction that I wrote for July’s Gray Fox Report but as it turns out my conclusion was correct. I had written, “… evidence of pups being present would be to see at least three gray foxes, that is two identified adults and at least a single pup, in the same video frame over at least five different occasions. I have not seen the needed information and thus must retract my contention that the gray foxes had a litter.” All the way through the month of August, we kept a close watch via our trail cameras and visual sightings but there was no concrete evidence that the pair had a litter.
What has transpired, however, is that a single unattached female gray fox has showed up in the pair’s home range. Within the culture of the gray fox there are some foxes that do not become attached to a mate. They are the wanderers and they can be either male or female. These foxes sometimes become the helper females of a region meaning that when a pair of foxes has a litter, especially a large litter of four or more, the helper female arrives and helps the pair raise their young.
However, under these circumstances, this female is an interloper, a trespasser into the pair’s territory. Under some circumstances and with some gray foxes this kind of behavior is tolerated. For instance, before the great die-out of 2016, down along Matadero Creek there were several such single foxes. Neither the alpha male nor female of the region did anything to force them to leave. However, nearby the male Brownie and mate Helper who claimed the marsh near the ITT Facility seriously defended their home range especially when raising their pups.
This newcomer has a floppy right ear with a blue tag. Field assistant Jessica Hatfield named her Flop. When she first came into the region, from what could be picked up on the trail cameras, everything between Big Eyes and Flop seemed peaceful. We did not pick up on any fights until August 8th at the ditch just off of Matadero Creek. Like most fox fights it was fast and furious. Another fight took place on August 27 and 28. On the 27th there were two fights that night at two different camera locations. These were serious fights, one of them lasting about seven seconds. That’s a serious engagement for most fox fights last more like three to four seconds. The fight on the 28th is rather curious because it’s not a regular bite and claw. In this one Big Eyes attacks Flop but Flop isn’t deterred by it as she simply returns to foraging out of the frame and Big Eyes just walks on down along Creek Trail.
Flop has been in several very serious fights in her past. As such I assume that she knows how to handle herself. She has two notches on the rim of her left ear. Such notches not only advertise the fight but they can also give one an idea of how old a fox might be. The more notches in the ear, the more serious the fights over an extended period of years. We will just have to watch and see exactly what transpires here between these foxes. Flop may in the end, like next year, help Big Eyes and Laimos rear their first litter.
Gray Foxes General Health
This pair is young, most likely first-year dispersals. They appear to be vibrant and healthy except for one common ailment.
Total Numbers of Gray Foxes in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve
As of August 2019, we have three adult gray foxes living in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.
Update for the Urban Wildlife Research Project – Greg Kerekes & Bill Leikam
Please donate so that we can begin the collaring project. Just go to our website, check out the letter and go to the donate button on the left of the page. Your donation is tax deductible. The collaring project needs $25,000 and here’s the reason why donate to uwrp?
We have two scheduled tabling events. Drop by and say hello.
The first will be October 5 from 11:00 – 4:00 in Pleasant Hill, California
692 Contra Costa Blvd
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523.
And then on October 6th in Alum Rock Park from 10:00 – 4:00 PM presented by the Youth Science Institute at the
Wildlife and Nature Center Interpreter
16260 Penitencia Creek Road<
San Jose, CA
- 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