Gray Fox Report of February, 2014

Location: Public access areas along the levee road skirting Matadero Creek. Last report – 12/27/2013

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(Picture #1: Helper Female  #2, Creek vaulting over a 10 foot channel)

As mentioned in my last report and as a quick reminder I have been hampered in my monitoring of the gray foxes due to having my Palo Alto City’s permit withdrawn. The city required that I attain a Department of Fish & Wildlife Scientific Collection Permit before I could continue my work. A year has passed with no permit in sight. Because of this, I have enlisted Senator Jerry Hill’s staff to try to trace it down. Even they are having difficulties but the last word on this is that the State Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to find my application.

A little aside here about mating behavior. Normally, in low to medium density environments, gray foxes tend to be monogamous but where there are high density populations monogamy breaks down in many but not all cases. (There are always exceptions to these kinds of generalities.)

 Over this past month, the question of which of the females will den up this year with Creek, has been answered. Creek and Helper have moved out onto the Renzel Wetlands and have denned up near or within the ITT Facility. Now the question becomes what will Little One do since she, as far as I can tell to date, has no mate? Will she take on the role of helper female to Creek and Helper once they have their litter? In other words will the roles be flipped this coming season? Will she find herself a mate out there on the floodplain? I’m tracking that issue now.

 January and February are interesting months because in the environment that I am studying, until very recently there are no territories marked and there won’t be until most of the dispersing foxes from last season’s litter either move through or they find a mate and sufficient range to feed their litter. If we look at this it makes sense: The young, the first year gray foxes, have been moving out to find their own mates and their own territory. Therefore, the animal corridors and byways through the riparian (creek-like) areas are open from about November through January. This allows these dispersing gray foxes free access to territories further afield. Once dispersal has taken place, then territories will be marked and defended. However, if a young gray fox decides to stay in an area for too long, it will be urged along by the dominant gray in the area. Recently, I saw just such an encounter. Creek the alpha male met with another fox that had been around for three days prior. They fought. At one point in that intense fight the two of them were up on their hind legs pounding each other with their paws like boxers. I never saw the intruder after that.

In a nutshell, that’s what’s happening. Please feel free to send me any comments or questions.

 Finally, if you know of an organization that would like to have me come and present my talk “A Year with the Urban Gray Fox” I would much appreciate the referral. My photographer partner in the Urban Wildlife Research Project, Greg Kerekez, also has a presentation on Burrowing Owls and more. Not only do we present to corporations, and organizations, but we will also come to people’s homes to present this. Let me know if you want to invite your friends over for a presentation on the Gray Fox. Just reply to this email.

 Resectfully submitted,

Bill Leikam, aka The Fox Guy

Director: Independent Urban Gray Fox Research Project

January 2013 Monthly Fox Report

Monthly Gray Fox Report

by Bill Leikam

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bold(female) with Rabbit Bill Leikam ©2013
Bold(female) with Rabbit Bill Leikam ©2013

Over the period of just over a month since my last report, a few changes have taken place with the gray foxes at the baylands. Since early December and on into January, the young foxes, the yearlings, have ignored the usual territorial boundaries as they are looking for their own territory and a mate. Foxes are coming and going through the area. They are for the most part solitary but they will pair up for a week, maybe two weeks and then move on. Along the creek, there are at least two and maybe four foxes both in the floodplain and along the creek down toward the slough. Last month there were none.

The alpha female that I call Bold and who fought her “father” Squat for the natal den in fox hollow left the area for about six weeks. Before leaving, however, one morning I followed her, observing and taking notes as we went. She trotted on down into the hollow and bounded back into the brush, right where the den is located. Within a minute or so, coming up the road through the bare light of dawn trotted a fox hot on her trail, just sniffing everywhere she’d walked. His nosed swished from side to side. He followed her scent to where she had gone back into the brush a minute or so before. He bounded in after her and won her heart for about a week before he vanished. She didn’t seem to mind at all. She went off for about 6 weeks, found herself a male and this past week brought him back to the den area. She’s had three males over the past two months.

That’s typical gray fox behavior at this time of year. Coming up in February they will be settling down with their new mate and have their own litter near the end of March or the beginning of April. The two year olds and older gray foxes will be returning to their traditional den to have another litter. This is going to be interesting because with the female Bold seemingly in possession of her natal den, Squat might return to reclaim it and if so then what might happen down in fox hollow is anyone’s guess.

In my last Fox Report, I mentioned that I would be doing some public presentations – a PowerPoint show with video of the pups taken by my trail cameras – in the coming months. I am scheduled to present one on March 4th at the Redwood City Library for the local Sierra Club. I will send out more detailed information on it soon.

Sleeping Golf Course Fox 4/11/12

Golf Course Fox

Today Bill and I decided to check out the golf course. We went mid-afternoon, not the typical foxing time, and began walking the perimeter of the course. We then entered the golf course nursery, after a few minutes we thought we were out of luck, when we turned to leave we noticed this Gray Fox curled up on a roll of astroturf. We watched from 20 yards as the fox changed positions, yawned, and went to sleep.Sleeping Fox

Foxes can commonly be found in golf courses due to the vegetation and water incorporated into the course and the fox food such as mice, geese and coots that the green grass attracts. Though these courses can offer habitat, one factor against the fox is the common use of Rodenticide to limit the burrowing rodents on the green. Foxes and other predators in turn eat the poisoned rodents and become poisoned themselves. UWRP supports the ban of  rodenticides and urges golf courses to encourage owls and foxes to inhabit the course to control rodents naturally. Live trapping is also an option, one golf course we monitor in Palo Alto uses live traps with flags to alert when the trap has been set off. The foxes there have learned that flag means rodent and the golf course maintenance crew has to change fewer traps. Mother nature is the key, not poison.

 

Two New Urban Fox Dens 3/30/12

Greg Kerekes ©2012

Today we arrived to the Landfill and got reports from Frank that foxes were seen entering the woodpile multiple days in a row. We checked out the pile and noticed many signs of fox including multiple waterfowl carcasses. The very next day we arrived to the woodpile at sunrise and caught a glimpse of a fox entering the woodpile.

Duck Wing at Woodpile

We arrived to the water plant later in the morning and a plant worker told us that foxes were seen coming in and out of this hole in some roots by their tool shed in the middle of the night. Adjacent to this burrow is a parking lot and multiple buildings with humans working 24hrs a day. This species can tolerate living in close proximity to humans, if their is a secure enough den site and enough foraging habitat.

Greg Kerekes ©2012

Pups got a Gosling 8/15/12

Two Gray Fox Pups 8-15-12
Greg Kerekes ©2012

This morning we were greeted by 2 pups. They emerged from the bunchgrass and posed. They began prancing and chasing each other around Fox Hill. Bill and I searched for new signs of fox activity around the territory. We look for wildlife trails, tracks, scat, cashed food, and animal remains; any clue that might give us an insight into the foxes behavior. Today we found what appeared to be a Gosling carcass. We have had families of Geese appear on our trail cameras within den fox territory recently, looks like the fox sniffed them out. Also found in foxland today was a freshly eaten duck egg and a large piece of tinfoil brought over from the landfill.

Gosling in Fox Land 8-15-12
Greg Kerekes ©2012

Squat the Urban Gray Fox

Fox Blog Post 1:   6/3/12

Meet Squat the Gray Fox. Returning to his South Bay den just before sunrise, after a night of hunting and foraging. We waited over an hour along the fox trail towards Squat’s den. Sure enough at 6:52am, Squat came trotting down the trail towards us. My friend and local fox expert, Bill, called “Hey little fox…” Squat cautiously came over to check us out. Bill has known Squat since birth and appropriately named him, as he frequently marks his territory by squatting on his right leg. Squat has a mate and two pups as of 6-3-2012.

Squat the Gray Fox climbing a Honeysuckle bush.

UWRP

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