Gray Fox Report for June 2018
Urban Gray Fox’s Parenting: Not All the Same – Part III
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.
Gray Fox Parenting – 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 around. He remained aloof from it all.
Gray Foxes General Health
To date, no gray foxes at the Palo Alto baylands during May.
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 – will be held at the Palo Alto EcoCenter Saturday, August 4, 2018, 11:00 AM – 12:00 noon. Address: 2560 Embarcadero Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303, Phone: (650) 493-8000
- 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