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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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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

There are only two members of the Canid family that can climb trees--The Raccoon Dog of East Asia and our own Gray Fox............The Gray Fox has a ridge of black guard hairs along the tail, with the tail having a black-tip.........These are the characteristics that distinguish a Gray Fox from it's "Red cousin".............. Gray foxes also have coarser hair than Reds along with shorter legs.................The gray fox’s ancestors separated from other canid species 3.6 million years ago and are considered among the oldest species in the Canidae family...............Bearing young once a year with the male helping in child rearing(like most of the canid family), the adult Foxes will hunt both day and night to put food on the table for their young brood.............With their tree climbing acumen, the Gray's can better avoid Coyote and Bobcat predators and are thus expanding their range north(especially where there are recovering forests taking hold

The Tree Fox(click on this link)

The Tree Fox
Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol
When you think of foxes (if you ever do), you likely picture the ginger-coated red fox, like Mr. Tod from Beatrix Potter’s fantastical children’s tales, only without the dapper suitcoat and tweed knickers. It is the not-as-common gray fox, however, that has been wandering the woods and fields near my home – and climbing the trees.
That’s right: gray foxes can climb trees, a distinction they share with only one other member of the Canidae family, the raccoon dog of East Asia. This arboreal ability provides several benefits for the gray fox, from evading predators to reaching food.
It was this fondness for trees that led me to our neighborhood gray fox last winter. Curious about the jumbled network of dainty tracks surrounding an old apple tree just beyond the back vegetable garden, I set the game camera at the base of its trunk. Just like that, I had a dozen nighttime images of a beautiful gray fox, black lines running like streaked mascara from its eyes, thick ruff of fur around its neck, and an enormously bushy tail, topped and tipped in black.
That ridge of black guard hairs along the tail, and the black-tip, are features that definitively revealed this fox as a gray, not a red. Gray foxes have coarser hair than reds, although their mostly black-and-gray coat is dappled with rusty red. They are also stockier than their red counterparts, with shorter legs.
Although similar in size and sharing some habits of red foxes, gray foxes represent an entirely separate branch of Canidae evolution and are in the genus Urocyon (rather than Vulpes, the genus that comprises red and many other foxes). The gray fox’s ancestors separated from other canid species 3.6 million years ago, and Urocyon cinereoargenteus, the gray fox, is considered among the oldest species in the Canidae family.
Gray foxes did not exist in many parts of northern New England, at least in recent history, but furbearer harvest records in both New Hampshire and Vermont indicate that they’re expanding their range. “The last ten years, there are some records of gray foxes being trapped in Coos County [New Hampshire’s most northern county], which is not historically a stronghold for them,” said Eric Orff, a wildlife biologist and retired long-time furbearer biologist for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “It’s an animal that’s on the move. They’re seeking new territory, moving north.”
This shift could be partly due to habitat availability. While red foxes prefer open fields, gray foxes do well with a mixture of forest and old fields bordered by brushy edges. That perfectly describes the setting beyond our yard – and in much of northern New England, where farmland has reverted back to forest.
The gray fox’s curved, semi-retractable claws and flexible front legs may also give the animal a literal leg up over their red fox brethren in the region. Unlike red foxes, they are able to evade coyotes by climbing trees – they sometimes even den in tree hollows far above the ground. Their arboreal skills also enable them to reach fruit that red foxes can’t.
Gray foxes mate once a year, in late winter. The mating pair share responsibility for raising offspring, and the family generally stays together until fall.
While the kits – normally three to five in a litter – are confined to the den, the male fox (known as a tod), goes out hunting while the vixen remains with the kits. By June, the kits are weaned – and hungry. With so many mouths to fill, the parent foxes, mostly nocturnal, are more likely to venture out on hunting excursions during daylight hours. And that leads to a surge of calls to Fish and Game departments from people concerned about spotting the normally secretive foxes, said Orff. “June is the fox month.”
June may be “fox month” for wildlife officers, but all traces of my neighborhood gray foxes have disappeared: without tracks pressed into snow, I don’t know much about their wanderings.
Some of the game camera images from late in the winter show two foxes together. Perhaps that means there is a den nearby, and gray fox pups will soon be out with their parents learning to hunt. I hope that next winter, I’ll find more fox tracks around the old apple tree.

Meghan McCarthy McPhaul is an author and freelance writer. She lives in Franconia, New Hampshire.

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