The Fox

I’ve been getting many reports of Gray Fox sightings by both staff and Guests. I myself have seen a fox on just about a daily basis, sometimes twice, or even three times in one day.

Just the other day I heard one of the fox barking in the woods up behind the Red Wolf Enclosure. A few minutes later it was standing on the path about 30 feet away. I looked at the fox and the fox looked at me. It turned and slowly trotted away.

A Gray Fox trots down the path after having looked me up and down and deciding it may be best to “go this way.”

The fox is obviously used to people. It turns and walks, sometimes runs, away when it spots people walking down the path, but it doesn’t tear away as you might expect.

Later the same day I was standing on the boardwalk talking to one of our Summer Camp Counselors when he spotted a fox in the grass next to the Black Bear Exhibit. This appeared to be a young fox, and very curious. It kept popping in and out of the grass to have a look at us standing on the boardwalk.

An apparent young gray fox curious about the people watching it from the boardwalk.

Just a reminder, the fox is obviously not fearful of humans but it is still a wild animal. If it pops out of the trees or grass alongside the path as your strolling along, stands and looks at you, don’t approach it. It will probably keep going about its business as soon as it realizes that you’re a person and not an inanimate object in the middle of the path. Oh, and count yourself lucky for having a close encounter with a truly incredible little animal!

11 responses to The Fox

  1. Beckett says:

    Your photo of the young fox is spectacular! Perhaps you’ve discussed this before, but what kind of camera do you use?

    • Greg Dodge says:

      Thank you, Beckett.
      The camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ40.

    • Greg Dodge says:

      While we should always be alert for animals that display strange behavior I don’t think that the behavior of our fox is caused by rabies. In another encounter with a fox, it came towards me instead of away from me. That had me concerned until I realized that the fox seemed as confused by my behavior as I its behavior (this is not the encounter in the posting at left).
      Most animals can’t quite make out what you are when you stand in one spot without moving, and unless the wind is blowing in their direction, from you to them, they can’t smell you either. I had been standing perfectly still which I often do when encountering wild animals, if for no other reason than to test their ability to see me, to see if they will be able to distinguish me from the background. The fox came at me, then turned, then came towards me again, until it finally seemed totally confused and ran off into the woods.
      At that point I continued walking in the direction that I had been walking before seeing the fox. It watched me from inside the woods, but soon took off in the opposite direction. I was a little spooked, I must admit, but I think the fox was too.
      If I see any behavior that I think is indicative of rabies, distemper, or any other disease in any of the wild creatures walking the property here, I’ll report it as soon as I see it. But I think we’re good for now.

  2. Wendy says:

    Looks like fox eyes resemble cat’s eyes more than other canines, with their slitted pupils.

    • Greg Dodge says:

      That’s right, fox have slit pupils, and they climb trees too! But, unlike cats (domestic and feral) the fox are able to climb down out of the trees.

  3. Sarah says:

    Ducky had a close encounter with a fox that was using the railroad tracks as a walkway to get into the farmyard and Loblolly Park a few weeks ago.

  4. Sherry Samuels says:

    I’ve seen the (a) fox twice in our compost pile as well

  5. jennifer says:

    I saw one of the foxes the other evening when leaving Catch the Wind. It appeared curious but cautious. They really are beautiful animals.

  6. leslie says:

    Any idea how many of these guys our land can support? I’m sure there is no shortage of mice and voles for them.

    • Greg Dodge says:

      No, not with any data to back it up. With that said, I would suggest that there is probably an adult female and male in the area year round. I think that our pair has had a liter of 3 – 5 pups. The pups will probably be asked to leave this fall and the area will be the domain of our two fox, or at least the female.
      There’s plenty of food available on the Museum grounds judging by the number of feral cats present. There are, as you say, plenty of mice, shrews, rats, frogs, snakes, blackberries, mulberries, persimmons, and other fruit depending on the season, and we’re in the middle of suburbia with plenty of trash cans, both residential and fast food type, to rummage through. So, although I think there is probably just the one pair at any given time, I think the property could handle one or two more animals.
      I’m not sure the residents would tolerate another fox moving in.
      I have read reports of home range sizes varying from .05 mi. – 8 mi. but the average seems to be about .5 – 1 mile.
      (We have about 84 acres here at the Museum – .05 sq mi is about 32 acres – .5 sq mi is about 320 acres – 1 sq mi is about 640 acres)
      We probably have new animals trying to move in all the time. The Ellerbe Creek corridor and the sewer right of way that runs through the property are excellent avenues for wildlife to move about suburban northern Durham. There are deer that wander through, Wild Turkey, and if you remember we had a wild Black Bear visit us about three years ago.
      Good question, thanks.

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