Gray Fox Report for September 2019
September Tales : What’s Happening
Until September 21st at 5:58 AM, the gray fox pair; male Laimos and mate Big Eyes had endlessly chased, fought and harassed the tough little female trespasser Flop. They may still want to drive Flop out of their home range but from just one incident on the date cited above, things may be changing.
That morning I stood near camera #3 to swap out the SD cards, when off to my right on the trail leading into the area stood the male gray fox Laimos watching me. I took several pictures of him before he trotted across the dead grass to the left side, his favorite spot at the edge of the blackberry thicket. A moment later where Laimos had stood there stood Flop looking across at him. She looked at me and then unbelievably she trotted on over toward Laimos. As she went, I felt that there was going to be a ferocious fight or a chase. They met, and there was a very brief spat. Then the two of them retreated to the edge of the thicket and sat there, Flop just behind him. They were not more than a foot apart.
Several days later, shortly before sundown, gray foxes Big Eyes and Laimos foraged across the channel. About half way through that video clip from off on the left came Flop. She approached submissively, low to the ground, looking up at Laimos who watched her as she drew near. Big Eyes stopped foraging and she watched. Laimos turned from Flop and trotted out onto the concrete overflow channel and off toward the ditch. Big Eyes followed him leaving Flop to forage in the grass on her own.
Does this mean that a truce has been made between trespasser Flop and the pair whose home range they claim, or will the female Big Eyes continue the fight until she drives Flop away from the region? Only more evidence is needed before we can draw any conclusions. Stay tuned.
The gray fox pair Laimos and Big Eyes seem to be going counter to what the research contends namely that gray foxes are solitary hunters. For instance, as stated in Wikipedia and elsewhere, “The gray fox is an omnivorous, solitary hunter.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_fox ) Laimos and his mate Big Eyes are too often, both in the middle of the night and on daylight excursions, traveling together. I don’t mean to say that they are together 100% of the time but as a guesstimate they travel together 90% to 95% of the time and they show up together in various areas of the region where our array of trail cameras is recording their nightly wildlife movement.
On one such occasion, earlier this month, over on trail camera #4 along Creek Trail, Big Eyes approaches and passes the camera in broad daylight with a fat woodrat in her mouth. Following right behind her is Laimos. Now, I don’t mean to say that they together caught this woodrat. They didn’t but the two of them must have been present when Big Eyes bounded into the brush and came up with the woodrat. On another occasion, in the dark of night, the two of them are caught trotting off toward the ditch off to the left of camera #2. Suddenly, one of the foxes makes a bounding arching leap off to their left and into the tall weeds along the retaining wall, obviously after prey. At the end of that 30 second camera run, one of the pair stands watching its mate and, on the camera, only its glowing eyes are in the frame.
When one gets down to watching and documenting the behaviors of specific gray foxes, or any other such wildlife, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. Broad generalizations such as gray foxes are solitary hunters may still be true for if we looked at say 100 different gray fox pairs in varying habitats across the country it may be that when considering that many that the generalization holds true. Yet it is important to know that generalities come apart when specific populations are ethologically documented.
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 September 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