Gray Fox Report: March 2020

Gray Fox Report: March 2020

Is It Pup Time Yet?

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

Up until about two weeks ago, the gray fox pair Laimos and Big Eyes were simply living the normal life of two paired gray foxes, behaving like so many others at this time of year with but one exception. In contrast with other foxes that I’ve known, these two played and hunted together. For instance, at night the trail cameras picked them up trotting together along the overflow channel, or hunting along the edge of the back road near Byxbee Park where as Laimos watched, Big Eyes stopped, hunkered down, flexed her thighs and at the exact moment she bounded in an arching leap off into the grass. A moment later she emerged with what appeared to be a rodent. Hunting together like that, as mentioned in a previous Gray Fox Report, is unusual behavior as they are considered in research papers as solitary hunters.

But something has changed. I haven’t seen the two together like that for upwards of two weeks now, neither live nor on any of the multiple trail cameras located in their territory but early in the dark of the morning, March 28th, before dawn so it’s still dark, as I walked along the overflow channel toward the ditch, ahead there were two sets of glowing eyes looking in my direction. As I approached, the pair of eyes on the left dashed away and into the brush. That was one skittish fox and I suspected that it was Big Eyes. That was confirmed when I caught a good look at the other fox still lying up on the retaining wall watching. Clearly that was Laimos.

As I drew near, he sat up. I chatted at him for a few moments and then walked on back to camera #1 situated where the ditch enters Matadero Creek. I swapped out the SD card and walked back along the trail. As I passed the big tree I caught the glint and then a steady stare of a pair of glowing eyes deep in the brush. I knew that it was the hyper-skittish Big Eyes. As I came out from the trail, Laimos was right near the trail’s entrance off the channel. He ran across the ditch and off to the far side where he stopped and looked back at me.

For the rest of the time that I was in and near the channel, Laimos did not go into the brush to rejoin his mate. While taking care of the cameras back in the big clearing, back in the woods, when I was just about ready to leave, there at the head of the trail leading into the clearing stood Laimos. He bounded across the clearing and took up his usual post off on the left side.

Big Eyes change in behavior from a fairly mellow little fox out hunting with her mate Laimos to a hyper-skittish gray fox that no longer travels far afield on the nightly hunt suggests to me that she is tense and tight like that because she’s fearful that something may happen to her pups. She also knows that those pups rely on her for nursing, for food and warmth and so she dashes for the protection of the brush and the thickets.

I have yet to see Big Eyes again but I think that she had her pups in the later part of March likely between March 20th and March 25th. That’s early. With that said and done, I hope that I don’t have to retract myself as I had to do last year in the April Gray Fox Report 2019 when she acted as if she had pups but didn’t.

Note: The image of the gray fox pup is not a pup born by Big Eyes and Laimos. This is an image from the archives.

Until next month, I hope that your endeavors provoke thought, are productive, and are rewarding. See below.

Gray Foxes General Health

This pair is young, most likely first-year dispersals. They appear to be vibrant and healthy. I’ve noticed that this 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 like sized item in their scat.

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

As of March 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. Just go to our website ( Urban Wildlife Research Project), 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?

If you’d like to see a bit of wild Africa giraffes, rhinos, zebras and so much more come visit Safari West https://www.safariwest.com/  We will be doing a tabling event at Safari West on April 18th from 10:00 AM to 4 PM. Drop by and pay us a visit and let us know how you found us.

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

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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.

Sincerely,
Bill Leikam – The Fox Guy
CEO & President,
Urban Wildlife Research Project
A Nonprofit 501 C3
UrbanWildlifeResearchProject.com