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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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Saturday, May 14, 2016

So is the Fox in your yard a Red or Gray?......Often the coat of the Fox is not red enough or gray enough to answer this question...............Simple answer is that the Red Fox has a white-tipped tail and the Gray Fox has a black-tipped tail..................And with Coyotes now existing in every state except Hawaii, you might more often catch a glimpse of the Gray Fox whose ability to climb trees keeps it a step ahead of the Coyote who might seek to push it out of a given territory..............At the same time, the ever adaptable Red Fox is adapting to the Coyotes presence by carving out territories in close to human habitation, sometimes a deterrent to Coyotes extirpating them from historical haunts...............For the past two years, University of Wisconsin-Madison Researchers have been trying to get a good read on exactly how Red Foxes and Coyotes are coexisting, how they use the landscape and at what times of day...........And they have been finding that contrary to most studies, the Foxes and Coyotes in urban Madison, Wisconsin seem to coexist easier than previously believed possible

Something Wild: Red Fox

If you see a fox near your house, it's likely to be a red fox. These cunning creatures are evolving into suburban- and even urban- dwellers. 
So how do you tell a red fox from a grey fox? Well, the red fox has a white tip on its tail, and the grey fox has a black one. But a better clue is where you've spotted one of these handsome canines. If you see it near your house, it's likely to be a red fox. That's because these cunning creatures are evolving into suburban- and even urban - dwellers
.Red Fox always has a white-tipped tail 
A red fox.Some biologists suspect this change is related to the increase in coyotes, which are out-competing foxes for food and territories. Ever adaptable, red foxes have figured out it is safer to live near humans than their larger canine cousins. Reputed to be fierce predators, those who know red foxes best say they are, in fact, extremely cautious, very smart, and always opportunistic. Foxes will eat almost anything, from fruits to insects to garbage to their preferred prey, rodents. A fox's ear is especially well-adapted for hearing the tiny feet of mice, voles and shrews as they scurry about underground. Therefore, one benefit of having more foxes nearby is a definite drop in rodent levels. 
Gray Foxes climb trees and have black tipped tails

Some people react unfavorably, of course, to the idea that this pointy-faced predator may be moving under their porch. They worry about their pets, or even their children. But most biologists believe a healthy fox will avoid any confrontation that they cannot win easily. And after all, a red fox rarely weighs more than 15 pounds. And while foxes do sometimes carry rabies, at the moment this terrible disease seems to have abated. So, if you see a fox around during the day, it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Vixens, or female foxes, will often be about when they have young, for example. The red fox has proven to be nothing if not resilient. After all, they've certainly out-foxed us time and again!

What urban carnivores can teach us about coexistence

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are collaring and tracking foxes and coyotes to learn about the species and head off potential conflict with other city residents.

The red fox is the most widely distributed carnivore in the world, equally as adaptable as the coyote. It uses this adaptability to make itself comfortable even in areas where it has been introduced, including California. These survivor species have been able tomake a home not only in new areas of wilderness but also in new habitats that are anything but wild.
Sedating a Coyote so as to collar it for research
collaring a coyote
Their presence has certainly been noted by urban dwellers. Foxes are making national headlines as they dart across the lawn of Capitol Hill or take up residence on the campus of Facebook. And speaking of Facebook, more than one fox and coyote have their own Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts, which are popular with city residents. The coyote living on the University of British Columbia’s campus, affectionately named Carter, has a Facebook page updated several times a week with photos or videos submitted by students, many who come within a matter of yards of the coyote as she travels down campus or hunts squirrels and skunks (largely ignoring her human admirers).
Red Fox

The growth of urban areas typically drives away mammalian carnivores, but the opposite is true for these two canids. Instead, cities have inadvertently created an ideal habitat for them. As foxes and coyotes establish themselves in large cities all over the country, urban ecologists are hurrying to catch up in understanding the lives of what are now common city residents. More and more studies have been launched to learn about different aspects of these canid species that are now our close neighbors. But what is particularly interesting to Mueller and David Drake, associate professor and extension wildlife specialist at UW-Madison and Mueller's advisor for the UW Urban Canid Project, is that coyotes and foxes seem to be thriving not only among humans, but also with each other. These two species don’t usually mix.
Red Foxes find it easy and beneficial to survival to den under buildings
fox den in an urban setting
Just as wolves will kill coyotes to keep these smaller competitors out of the way, coyotes kill foxes when they come across them in their territory. Yet both foxes and coyotes can be found in relative abundance in Madison and many other cities. Drake and Mueller want to find out how the two species are living together in these urban areas, and more importantly, what factors play into their distribution in the city.
U. Of Wisconsin-Madison Researchers are trapping and placing radio collars on 30 foxes and 30 coyotes to create a sample population for study.
Coyotes and foxes usually don’t coexist. As mentioned earlier, the coyote is a predator of the fox. But here, they seem to be coexisting fairly well. In fact, a woman recently emailed Drake to tell of an account where she witnessed a fox and a coyote sitting there looking at each other, taking stock of each other and ultimately leaving each other alone entirely. Why are these urban animals playing nice for the most part? What factors are at play? That's what Mueller hopes to find out.
As the study subjects are captured and collared, Mueller will match up location data with human demographic factors in the same areas, such as the density and types of housing, what areas have people with dogs or without dogs, the location of possible food sources like gardens and chicken coops, and anything else he can think of that could be a driving factor in where foxes are setting up territories, where coyotes are setting up territories, and where the territories overlap.
Red Fox Tracks adjacent to building
animal tracks in the snow
"We do know at least from our pilot study that the fox and the coyote do overlap," says Drake. But the question is how. "Are they sharing that space but using the space at different times of the day or night? Or what we think is probably going on is there’s enough resources here in the urban area that they don’t have to compete for them."
This overlap between the two canid species is a new area of study for urban carnivores.
"There have been some studies looking at the competition between coyote and fox from a rural to urban gradient," says Drake. "But we’re not aware of anyone who is going to look into these interactions similar to the way we are."
And as for a guess at why the foxes seem to do so well in such blatantly obvious and surprising proximity to humans, Drake has a supposition. "The fox is tending to be closer to human beings, bedding down next to people like someone’s house or backyard. We don’t hear so much about that with coyotes. So I think the fox are tending to be closer to human beings and may be using the human beings as a source of security. Marcus will start to figure stuff like that out."
Indeed, Mueller intends to discover the reason behind this, along with many other things. Ultimately, the study is only partially about the interactions of urban foxes and coyotes. Their lives are the "what" of the study but the "why" centers around the humans among whom they live. After all, humans are constantly discussing the "growing coyote problem" and worrying about keeping foxes out of their backyard chicken coops. Answers are needed for understanding what's going on with these two species, the risks and benefits of their living among us, and how to coexist. This study will start to provide these answers.
To a certain extent, what is learned about the urban canids in Madison may help other cities in dealing with their fox and coyote populations. At the very least, it can be additional inspiration for researchers in other urban areas to conduct studies. It builds on the work of studies currently being conducted, such as the ongoing work of Stanley Gehrt in Chicago. It also shows that encouraging the public to be part of the learning can make things easier for everyone, from the researchers to city officials dealing with urban planning or fielding complaints, to residents who just feel worried or confused about what to think of their wild canid neighbors.


Anonymous said...

I don't know WHY some scientists(and others) keep insisting red foxes and coyotes don't "usually" coexist--they have been coexisting for millenniums out West. All any of these folks need to do is go to readily accessible Yellowstone National Park to observe both in the same habitats--and this long, long BEFORE wolf reintroductions limited the coyote numbers! Sure, coyotes WILL kill and limit red fox numbers, but red foxes still successfully survive. And have for centuries! Coyotes and gray foxes have also coexisted for centuries, especially in the American southwest. And the person who mentioned that rabies in fox populations was down? Have they not put two-and-two together, and realized that since coyotes control fox numbers(and raccoons, and skunks, and feral cats, etc. etc.), which are all common reservoirs for the disease, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY GET OVERPOPULATED!!!--"coincidentally" rabies epidemics have lessened enormously! Yet ANOTHER reason we need a larger canine predator in the East, which I TRY to tell all the coyote-haters out there!......L.B.

Rick Meril said...


so spot on about Coyotes dampening the racoons, skunks and other harbingers of rabies............Down this disease is as Coyotes tamp down these animals to levels that work best for the health of them................And as you say, Coyotes and Foxes have always occupied the western and midwestern quadrants of North America in some type equilibrium..............Simply that Foxes were able to multiply to larger than normal levels for 150+ years in the east without sizeable top down pressure from larger trophic meat eaters.............Hooray for Coyotes and Foxes occupying their respective sympatic niches