Gray Fox Report: September 2020

Gray Fox Report: September 2020

Discipline?

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

During the month of September, the gray fox pair, Laimos and his mate Big Eyes have been having a good life or so it seems: Napping during the day, and active at night for between 9 and 12 plus hours. As mentioned last month, I’m going to diverge from focusing solely on our gray fox pair and stretch out to include some highly unusual behavior of not only foxes but also a family of raccoons. All the content for this report will be in the form of my description ahead of the video.

Many of us watch wildlife shows on television or maybe online at Vimeo, YouTube, etc. When we tune in we see the bears foraging for salmon in an Alaskan river, but other than just seeing their actions, often we have little idea of what it all means, especially what it means to the animals involved.

To get the most out of this, please read the following before you watch the video.

Raccoon Mama Curious

When I first met Mama Curious, she was with two other raccoons; Buddy and Chubby. When I walked down the dirt road in the early morning, these three raccoons came out from the brush and onto the road. At first, I was cautious but then when they’d be there nearly every morning, I began talking at them, letting them hear the timbre of my voice. One of them came close and after several times of being no more than three feet away, she came to within inches, reached out, touched my boot with her wet nose, and stroked my pantleg. She seemed to enjoy that kind of contact and so after doing that on several successive mornings, I named her Curious.

Discipline raccoon style: The video If my interpretation is correct or even close, it seems as though Curious needs to discipline one of her cubs. Normally, the five cubs that you see in the beginning of this video would be running and climbing, wrestling and playing but they know that something serious is about to happen. They are subdued and careful. Before Mama Curious comes into the frame, you hear her snort a couple of times. She must be saying something to all or maybe just to one of her cubs. Notice that there are four cubs in and around the climbing tree, but her fifth cub is just visible at the bottom right corner of the screen. Why is that cub not over by the tree with his siblings? Note that Mama goes to her three cubs by the trees and touches each. The fourth one has climbed one of the trees so she doesn’t bother. Mama Curious slowly swings over to that cub at the bottom of the frame and then in an instant she rips into him. He shrieks. He runs off into the dark and watches his family from a distance. He is an outcast at least for a while.  

Note the reaction of the other four. They are subdued. They understand that this is serious and they want no part of it brought down on themselves. Mama Curious comes back into the frame, goes to the largest of her cubs, most likely the alpha cub, touches him, turns and walks away. She’s giving instructions through the alpha cub, telling him to lead her cubs away from the climbing trees and possibly to ignore the cub that was disciplined. The alpha cub comes from the tree, follows Mama and the rest follow as they leave the frame and leave their lone sibling behind, cowering in the dark.

Being alone like that, having had Mama attack him like that may have humbled him. If this is a scene of raccoon discipline then this little cub more than likely has learned his lesson as he comes up between the climbing trees, passes through and just before he leaves the frame he stops. I wonder what he was feeling and thinking at that very moment?

Gray Foxes General Health

Last month I wrote, “In June I 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.”

Continuing observations on head shaking: Only once did I see Big Eyes shake her head over the course of August. I did not see Laimos shake his head at all, so it looks like that malady is on the mend.

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

As of September 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. The collaring project needs $35,000 and here’s the reason why donate to uwrp?

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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  

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.

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* Reference: Mitochondrial Analysis of the Most Basal Canid Reveals Deep Divergence between Eastern and Western North American Gray Foxes (Urocyon spp.) and Ancient Roots in Pleistocene California –

Natalie S. Goddard1¤, Mark J. Statham1, Benjamin N. Sacks1,2* 1 Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, California, United States of America, 2 Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, California, United States of America

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