Gray Fox Report for January 2020
Every day brings with it the possibility that the gray fox pair at the baylands will show something never before seen by those of us who study these fox’s behavior. Sometimes that happens live in the field while I am setting up our trail cameras or on the trail cameras themselves as a video file. For instance, just this past month two of those situations occurred, one of which I had never before seen from any of the previous gray foxes.
Event #1 – The “Embrace”
Crows call out a warning whenever there are predators around. The female gray fox Big Eyes is out on the concrete overflow channel keyed in on something nearby, her tail notched in a mode that says, “I’ll defend myself if need be.” Suddenly, her mate Laimos rushes into the scene, his tail notched as well. As they run at each other, she lowers herself and they come together standing on their hind legs, each of their front legs wrapped around the other in a “playful embrace.” They hold each other for maybe two to three seconds then they drop to the ground. Laimos looks toward the crows calling, then both walk off to the left.
As an aside, from their behavior over time it seems that these two foxes truly like each other as evidenced by tail swishing, have fun together as they playfully chase and find the other a good companion as when they travel across the baylands together hunting. It’s easy to use our own ideas of what is true, or the meaning behind our behaviors and project that meaning onto in this case the foxes. However, let’s not confuse their behavior as in this case an “embrace” and associate their behavior with two people embracing. That would be a mistake, for these are wild animals and we don’t always know what a particular behavior means until we see it played out numerous times, in numerous circumstances, with numerous other gray foxes. One such behavior seen in almost all gray foxes is the submissive fox kiss.
Event #2 – A Meeting of Minds
Down along Matadero Creek and in the channel, the feral cat Blackie has been living for the past seven or eight years. That is a very large cat, the equal of any gray fox. In this video the gray fox female Big Eyes comes upon Blackie. She seems curious, is cautious, moves slowly. Blackie keeps an unwavering focus on Big Eyes, but makes no motion toward her. Once Big Eyes is satisfied that the two of them can occupy the “same” space and not have to fight, she turns and heads away toward the camera. Blackie, because the concrete is wet from a recent rain, shakes her paws, then walks off in the same direction that Big Eyes went. From what I’ve seen over the past 10 years of monitoring these gray foxes’ behaviors, this cautious behavior is typical whether meeting an opossum, a raccoon, or a skunk. From my years in the field watching their behavior that is the temperament of Urocyon cinereoargenteus; the gray fox.
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 January 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. Just go to our website ( Urban Wildlife Research Project), 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?
The Fox Guy Bill Leikam gave a presentation titled Interface: High Tech & Wildlife Research in the Morris Daily Auditorium at San Jose State University on November 13th, 2019
- 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