With Pups Come Changes
The realization that they are now “parents” to a litter of dependent pups sent a shuddering change through the adults. Before the pups arrived, the female Big Eyes and her mate Laimos had presented themselves in an open pattern of behavior meaning that in the afternoons they casually lay in the tall grasses near channel marker number 15. If I were to to come walking along, they hardly moved. Occasionally, one might stand and keep an eye on me while the other lay watching. On the trail cameras at night nearly every night they came along Corridor Trail near the ditch and over to the crossing tree that acted as a bridge for them to cross to the northern side of the creek. Often they were together although, as mentioned in an earlier gray fox report, these foxes are solitary hunters.
Once the adults found that their pups could get around a little, Big Eyes and Laimos altered their behavior, not unlike we humans. Big Eyes reverted to her earlier behavior of being tense and highly skittish. Seldom did I see her even on one of the trail cameras. If perchance she and I inadvertedly met somewhere along the channel, she’d invariably run for the brush. For instance, one afternoon as the adult Canada Geese came along the channel one leading, the other behind their goslings giving them protection, I came around the sweeping curve and right in front of me, not more than 10 feet away, stood Big Eyes. For maybe two seconds she stood shocked with surprize that I was there. Obviously, she had, had her complete focus on trying to snatch up a gosling and probably run off into the brush and have a meal, or flee to her den to feed her pups. She dashed across the channel and vanished into the brush along the creek. Although Laimos wasn’t quite as tense as she, he preferred being back in the brush, out of sight.
As the month of May developed, gradually they became more and more at ease with having a family. Although I’ve not seen their pups and thus I don’t know how many they have, there’s still the need for the adults to hunt not only for their litter but also for themselves. On the afternoon of May 19th, I had finished setting camera #11 at marker #14 and walked on about half way to camera #3 at marker #16, when I stopped and looked back. The crows were cawing out a warning cry. I stopped and watched. A few minutes later, at 4:13 PM, the male gray fox Laimos stepped out from the grass, onto the channel and crossed to the retaining wall. (I hadn’t seen either of them for about a week.) The crows were not too happy with his presence. Laimos was still there at 4:21. I watched and documented what he did and it dawned on me that he was not his usual self. He was lethargic. I asked myself, “Now what could cause that? Parenting demanded that he hunt far longer than before the litter arrived. Maybe he wasn’t getting enough sleep. Maybe parenting was more demanding than he had thought? At 4:26 PM, Laimos slowly walked back down the channel, off into the weeds and most likely to their den.
More and more frequently the pair appears before trail camera #11 crossing the creek at night – headed over to the north side usually between 10:00 and 11:00 PM. On May 29th, early in the morning around 3:30 AM they both returned to the south side at the same time, crossing back over by way of the crossing tree. They seem to be taking parenting in an easy stride these days.
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. They both have intestinal worms, common at this time of year.
Total Numbers of Gray Foxes in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve
As of May 31, 2019, we have two adult resident gray foxes and an unknown litter of pups occupying 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?
On May 24th, I was interviewed via live Internet video stream with the History Channel in New York City. I may be selected to appear in a documentary that they are producing. Keep the positive vibes flowing my way.
If you would like to see and hear the interview that Kevin Webb did with me, check out https://twitter.com/WebbKevin/status/1111294989429026816
You can still check out Punch Magazine – Article page 52, about Bill and the work he is doing at the Baylands including what’s next. Many have reported enjoying the article Keeping Vigil with the Fox Guy.
- 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