Gray Fox are seen here at the Museum throughout the year. I sometimes see their tracks in the mud on service roads and there is a den in the woods near the Dinosaur Trail.
The frequency of sightings usually picks up in mid-winter. Over the past few weeks there have been numerous sightings by myself, Museum Staff, and Museum Guests….
It was near closing time on Saturday (2/13) as I stood at the entrance to the Dinosaur Trail looking in the direction of Catch the Wind. A Gray Fox bounded across the trail several hundred feet down the trail where the service road enters the paved path. A few seconds later it bounded across the trail in the other direction. Some thirty seconds later the fox came running up the middle of the path from Grayson’s Cafe and directly in front me as I watched in amazement (and wished that my camera wasn’t still in its case).
The fox continued down the trail until in got to the point where I had originally seen it bounding back and forth across the path. It suddenly stopped, stood for a second, and then leaped into the woods. I knew that Museum guests were still walking back in from Catch the Wind, so I reasoned that the fox had seen someone coming up the path and had jumped into the woods, and indeed, that was the case. I asked the person who was walking up the trail if she had seen the fox and she excitedly exclaimed that yes, she had seen it, as well as another at the Bird Feeder Exhibit (Flying Birds) and, that it (seeing the fox) was the highlight of her day.
The activity became a frenzy on February 17th when a fox was heard calling from the woods near the Red Wolf Enclosure. I later watched as a fox ran back and forth in the woods behind the Cafe calling out as it went along. As I watched this yelping fox search the woods for whatever it was looking for, another called from behind me.
Throughout the day, and throughout the Outdoor Exhibits, Gray Fox were seen by whoever ventured out into the wild. Two fox were seen chasing each other about in Catch the Wind. Two were heard calling at the same time behind the Cafe. One fox was seen leaving the property through an open gate. A fox was seen running down the hill under the boardwalk. A fox was seen at the Bird Feeders. Heard enough?
The next day, I saw one Gray Fox. The following day, no sightings.
What caused this “Fox Frenzy” on the 17th of February? Well, it IS the breeding season for fox. Gray Fox are certainly more active during the daylight hours at this time of year. However, the calling, running, chasing, and timing of sightings on that particular day leads me to believe that there was a third fox on the scene. I can’t say for certain, but perhaps an interloper, another male fox, entered the area seeking a mate. It’s only speculation of course, since I can not distinguish the male from the female and I have not yet become familiar enough with the fox that live here at the Museum to separate one individual from another, male or female, but it seems as if the hyperactivity of the day was caused by a third individual. Any ideas from you, the reader, are welcomed.
To hear what a fox sounds like click on this link. But first, once at the linked site you’ll have many choices of both Gray and Red Fox sounds to sample (our fox are Gray Fox – Urocyon cinereoargenteus). The sounds that are representative of what I heard on February 17 are call.wav and fox territory call.wav.
Oh yes, if you happen to see a fox trotting by, sitting in the woods, or under the bird feeders, look, but don’t approach it. While they are very “cute” and may sometimes appear to be rather “tame,” it’s important to remember that they are wild animals and should be respected as such.