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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Red foxes are found throughout Illinois but are most common in the northern two-thirds of the state.................. An epidemic of sarcoptic mange reduced their numbers dramatically in the late 1960s and early 1970s................ They haven't recovered fully because of an increase in Illinois' coyote population (coyotes compete for food and often will kill red foxes) and the retirement of the Soil Bank program (which provided good habitat for red foxes by encouraging farmers to convert highly erodible crop fields to grassland)............... While not as abundant as they once were, red foxes are still common in Illinois................. During late spring or early summer, up to three red foxes per square mile can be found in the best habitats.............. Vehicles and coyote predation were major sources of mortality for rural foxes; hunting and trapping accounting for only 7 percent of deaths........................ Researchers in Illinois have found that as coyote populations continue to increase, red foxes are moving to urban areas to avoid competing against or being preyed upon by coyotes

Environmental Almanac: An adaptable carnivore

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 7:00am | Rob Kanter

Photo by: Rob Kanter
Environmental almanac 01122014

On a cold, bright morning at the end of December, I was driving to Norris Tire and Auto in Champaign when I spotted a red fox trotting in the opposite direction, just off Springer Drive. I whipped the car around to try for photos as the fox negotiated a couple of parking lots, crossed Mattis Avenue (whew!) and then disappeared behind a pile of construction rubble.

When I arrived at the shop a short time later, I found people there had gotten good looks at the fox, too, and Mr. Norris was explaining why we see more foxes in town now than we used to.
He referred to a study conducted by a University of Illinois doctoral student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, which looked at movements and mortality among 335 foxes that were fitted with radio collars between 1996 and 2002.

According tothat study, red foxes declined in rural parts of East Central Illinois over the last three decades of the 20th century as farming became more intensive (which reduced the amount of prey available by reducing cover) and coyote populations grew (because coyotes kill foxes).At the same time, the study found, foxes thrived in urban areas, where coyotes are scarce and rabbits are more abundant.

That's not to say life is ever easy for foxes. Fewer than one in four of the fox pups in the study survived through its first year, and only one in three adults made it through an average year. (Although urban foxes are safer from coyotes than their rural counterparts, they are much more susceptible to sarcoptic mange, a fatal infectious disease caused by mites.) With such high mortality, foxes persist by reproducing at a high rate; females often breed in their first winter, and litters range from four to 10 or more.

Why do people get so excited about seeing foxes? Ed Heske, who specializes in mammal ecology at the Illinois Natural History Survey, a division of the UI Prairie Research Institute, credits the in-between space they occupy from a human perspective. "They're cool because they're wild carnivores, but they're small enough not to be threatening."
Indeed, even though its full coat and bushy tail can make it appear larger, an adult red fox typically weighs only somewhere between 8 and 13 pounds — less than some housecats I know.

Foxes may not possess all of the cunning or wisdom attributed to them by folklore, but they are pretty amazing. Have you ever seen video of a fox pouncing to catch a small mammal — or, better still, seen that yourself?

Scientists know foxes are especially sensitive to the low-frequency sounds made by prey animals as they move about or chew. But research conducted recently in the Czech Republic suggests foxes may also possess a magnetic sense that helps them estimate distance. The possession of such a sense would go a long way in explaining how a fox can leap into the air and punch through the snow to pin a mouse without having seen it.

I think my own fondness for red foxes owes to their adaptability. They occur throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and they occupy an incredible range of habitats, from cities and farms, to forests, grasslands, mountains and deserts. They can den under a shed or pass through your backyard at night without attracting notice. They eat rabbits and other small mammals for the bulk of their diet, but they also take advantage of insects and fruit when those things are abundant.

In a sense, I suppose, they're a lot like us.Be that as it may, I have no response if you insist on asking, "What does the fox say?"

Environmental Almanac is a service of the UI School of Earth, Society and Environment, where Rob Kanter is communications coordinator. Environmental Almanac can be heard on WILL-AM 580 at 4:45 and 6:45 p.m. on Thursdays.

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