Gray Fox Report For November 2019

Gray Fox Report for November 2019

Gray Fox Flop’s Incredible Journey

Submitted by William C. Leikam
President, CEO & Co-founder
Urban Wildlife Research Project
A 501 C (3) Nonprofit Corporation

In last month’s Gray Fox Report, I ended it with “As the month proceeded, however, right around October 24th it occurred to me that we hadn’t seen Flop on camera nor live over the past several days. I have seen this pattern of behavior in other foxes, i.e. unattached, roaming fox enters a claimed territory, remains for a time, then leaves. Sometimes they are never seen again ….” In this case Flop most likely left the creek area right about October 20.

Weeks passed and still no sign of Flop. I knew that she was out there somewhere, but where that was the big question. November 8th, 19 days after I assumed that she’d left, I received an email from a local biologist wanting to know if we of the Urban Wildlife Research Project were ear tagging gray foxes in our study area, or if not did we know who was doing any tagging in the region? I replied that we weren’t tagging but I knew that the USDA often tagged foxes in the area and so I passed on that contact information.

In their reply, the biologists working in the region had been trapping feral cats and in the process they had inadvertently live trapped a female gray fox with a tag in its ear marked V-1. Instantly, I knew that they had trapped the female Flop.

It felt good to know where she was, at least the region where she had traveled to. When we first encountered her down in the overflow channel, I told Johanna, my field assistant, that I felt that Flop had come from over in that direction.

So, now that we had the distance that she’d traveled it brought up a question: Given that the gray fox is “… 12 – 16 inches in height measured at the shoulder. It can weigh from 7 to 14 pounds but 10 -12 pounds is average,” (Google search page gray fox height and weight) how can such a small mammal as this successfully traverse the approximately 2.4 miles of landscape, knowing where to move through dense thickets, across grasslands, knowing where to cross the two creeks, knowing where to make a left turn across a broad golf course, and finally, after about a week’s travel get to her destination? How did she, or any other small mammal, know where it needed to go to get from point A and complete its journey at point B? Scent marking trails, maybe? Having once before travelled that trek, using memory, a map in its mind to find its way?

Gray Foxes General Health

This pair is young, most likely first-year dispersals. They appear to be vibrant and healthy although there have been a couple of scat deposits that were soft like diarrhea. The gray fox Flop seems to be healthy too. 

Total Numbers of Gray Foxes in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve

As of November 2019, we have two adult gray foxes living in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.

Section II

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?

The latest article about our work is here in Bold Italic Magazine

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

To find out more about us, search Urban Wildlife Research Project, UWRP, gray foxes, wildlife connection, linkages, corridors and several documentaries and clips on YouTube

  1. Check out our Facebook page.
  2. 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