Gray Fox Report: June 2020

Gray Fox Report: June 2020

Disease and the Gray Fox – Part II

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

For the past few months nothing novel, nothing out of the routine has happened over in Foxland and so I will continue with part II of Disease and the Gray Fox die-out of 2016. The latter part of that year was especially crazy as more and more reports came in of dead gray foxes. I found it gut wrenching that in death I could not clearly and cleanly identify any of the dead foxes although I’d been close up and personal with those foxes for years. Death overlays a shadow upon the victim.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017 4:22 PM, the email from the lead veterinarian for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife sat in my inbox. I had waited for it throughout the month of December but now that it was here, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it. As I read, her words pounded me with understanding, one that opened up many doors of perception on the plight of gray foxes everywhere. The diseases that impact foxes from one degree to another is rather long. They are: Rabies, tularemia, canine distemper, fox tapeworm, sarcoptic mange, toxocariasis, toxoplasmosis, and canine heartworm.

I guess it must have been over that following month as I ruminated on why the die-out had happened in the first place and the bare fact that there were no longer any foxes in the baylands to learn from. None-the-less, I continued setting up the trail cameras hoping that a pair of young gray foxes would find this unclaimed landscape and claim it as their own home range. A year prior to the die-out, Greg and I had put together a scat collection and analysis project. We wanted to know where the young foxes dispersed to because we already suspected that inbreeding was taking place down along the creek.

I don’t know when the gut level shift occurred, but at some point, it hit me that the scat project was cumbersome and it may not give us any viable results, the goal being that we find the new regions that the young gray foxes lay claim to as their home range. Following right on the heels of that understanding, I asked myself, “Why not collar the pups instead of tracking scat. Collaring will be far more expensive but at the same time far more reliable.” I told Greg. At first, he was reluctant mainly due to cost.

I decided that I would not allow a die-out like that to ever happen again in the baylands for it took a toll on the ecosystem. I thought that if we could discover where the young disperse to, we would then be able to make an assessment of that particular habitat and see how healthy or unhealthy the region is. During dispersal we can also find those patches of habitat that are unoccupied and take a look at why.

Those areas may need to have linkages planted between an unoccupied area of the baylands and one that has too many foxes living in it. If we could attain the relevant data from the collaring project, understand the thickets and ecosystems that the gray foxes chose, then we had a plan that would make the baylands a healthy place for all wildlife to live. 

I pushed ahead with the idea until it seemed as if I’d covered all of the basics we needed to consider like cost of collars, other gear, recruiting volunteers who had experience with live trapping and veterinary services. All of that led to the formation of the Urban Wildlife Research Project becoming a nonprofit organization and a working team of nine incredible volunteers.

Gray Foxes General Health

This month I’ve noticed that this pair are violently shaking their heads as if trying to dislodge something in their ears. In checking online such can be serious. It takes a veterinarian to resolve the case.  

Unrelated, the 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 sized item in their scat.

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

As of June 2020, we have two adult gray foxes living in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve.

Section II

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.

There is a fundraiser for the UWRP on Facebook at the moment. See and please contribute. And while you’re there, check out our Facebook page.

Or you can donate through PayPal on our website ( Urban Wildlife Research Project), check out the short video and go to the donate button on the left of the page. Your donation is tax deductible. The collaring project needs $35,000 and here’s the reason why donate to uwrp?

Bill has an interview tomorrow morning July 2, 2020 at 11:00 AM on Facebook Live

CuriOdyssey has invited Bill to do a Zoom show for their summer campers about the field work side of ethological research. It will be on July 17th at 9:20 AM. No link available.

Here’s a new article that quotes me about aspects of the gray fox. It’s called “Good Neighbor,” by Nancy Baron in Nature-Hood a column in the Coastal View out of Carpinteria, California. I am scheduled to give a presentation at Safari West in July. So far that event has not been cancelled. I will keep the readers of this report updated as things change.

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 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