November through December is White-tailed Deer mating season in New England. At dusk in late November we watched a magnificent buck chase a doe across the marshy field back and forth a number of times, before they both disappeared behind a clump of phragmites.
Cape Ann lobstermen and fishermen held a protest boat parade Wednesday afternoon. The parade was organized to show support for local lobstermen in light of the recent temporary closure of lobstering grounds and new requirements to purchase special gear. The grounds are closed until May 1st, possibly until May 15th, to prevent gear entanglements during the endangered Right Whale migration through Massachusetts waters.
Under overcast skies, the lobster boats gathered at Ten Pound Island and headed in the direction of the State Fish Pier. The parade circled the inner harbor several times to the cheering and honking of supporters lining the shore. After a good showing of lobster boats, fishing boats, and supporters, the parade ended under clearing skies.
The Eastern Coyote breeding season runs from December through March although typically, the end of February is peak mating season. Pairs are generally monogamous and may maintain a bond for several years. In April or May, anywhere from four to eight pups are born and both the male and female will raise the litter.
The Coyote (scientific name Canis latrans or “barking dog”) is one of the world’s most adaptable mammals. It can now be found throughout North and Central America. Eastern Coyote DNA reveals that as it was expanding its territory northward and eastward, coyotes occasionally interbred with wolves encountered in southern Canada. Eastern Coyotes are typically larger than their western counterparts because of the wolf genes they picked up during their expansion. The wolf gene gives them the strength and ability to hunt deer. Because there are no wolves in our area they are not actively cross-breeding and are not “coywolves.” Many species in the Canid Family (dog family) often hybridize so our Eastern Coyote has a nearly equal percentage of both dog and wolf DNA, and an even higher percentage of dog DNA in southern states, Mexico, and Central America. Coyotes that I filmed in Mexico looked much more dog-like than our heavily bodied local Eastern Coyotes.
This young Red Fox was spotted early one recent morning, hungrily scraping the ground for food. Perhaps he was hunting a small rodent or digging for grubs. How have the Red Foxes that were born in our neighborhoods last spring adapted to survive winter’s harsh temperature and snowy scapes?
Red Fox have evolved with a number of strategies and physiological adaptations. Their fur coats grow thick and long, up to their footpads, which aid in heat insulation. Adult Fox begin to moult, or shed, their winter coat typically in April. Young Red Fox do not moult at all the first year but continue to grow fur until their second spring.
Red Fox have relatively small body parts including their legs, ears, and neck, which means less body surface is exposed to frigid temperatures allowing them to conserve body heat. During the winter, Red Fox are less active than during the summer months. Decreased activity also helps to conserve body heat.
The Red Fox’s diet varies according to seasonal abundance. In the summer their diet is supplemented with berries, apples, pears, cherries, grapes, grasses, and acorns. All year round they feed on grubs and insects as well as small mammals such as rabbits, rodents, and squirrels. Red Fox have extraordinarily sharp hearing largely because their ears face outward. They can detect a mouse a football field away, under cover of snow!
While recently filming wildflowers at a field, as the sun was beginning to dip behind the woodland edge, and as I was about ready to call it a day, in the distance an exquisite White-tailed Deer appeared. I stood very, very still as more and more joined the the beautiful doe–a small herd–eight in all!
Occasionally they would glance up, then resume foraging. At one point the herd ran to the wooded edge and I thought that was the end of that beauty moment, but the group moved back toward the grassy field to continue foraging.One curiously brave doe came closer and closer, and as she was advancing, repeatedly pawed the ground with her left foot as if to say this is my family and I am not afraid of you. When nearly nightfall and imagining I wouldn’t be able to find the path home I left the field with the family still happily foraging in the near dark.
The curious and brave doe
Recently a young Red Fox has been spotted by our neighbors and by my family members in our East Gloucester neighborhood. Because a friend expressed fear, I just want to assure everyone that these young foxes are not rabid. They are perfectly healthy and simply exploring and looking for food to eat. At this time of year, many first year foxes are dispersing from their family unit. They are hungry and foraging for fruit and berries, hunting grubs and other insects, along with small mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, mice, and rabbits.
Young foxes have been seen in Rockport neighborhoods, Lanesville, Rocky Neck, Good Harbor Beach, and Bass Rocks. It is thought that because of pressure from the Eastern Coyotes, Red Fox are denning closer and closer to humans and taking advantage of human structures. Coyotes and Red Fox compete for habitat and wildlife biologist think the Red Fox sense that Coyotes are a greater threat to their young than are humans. The youngsters are seen more often during daylight hours and it’s our job to keep an eye out for these little guys. One was in our yard the other morning and he/she was as curious about us as we were about him. The following morning, he was scouting from atop a neighbor’s roof!
All living creatures need clean water, clean air, and safe habitat. The North American River Otter has made a remarkable comeback as a direct result of bipartisan clean water acts first written in 1948, and then rewritten in 1972. Stop the republicans from their continuous environmental rollbacks that will have a tremendously harmful impact on our water quality.
Vote the Blue Wave!
What is happening in this clip? Mom River Otter caught a frog. Rather than eating it herself, she set it on the log between her feet for her kit to find and eat.
Read More – The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.
Under the CWA, EPA has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. EPA has also developed national water quality criteria recommendations for pollutants in surface waters.
The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained.
In June 2020, EPA director Andrew Wheeler eliminated states’ and tribes’ rights to halt projects that risk hurting their water quality by rolling back a section of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, counters:
Enforcing state and federal laws is essential to protecting critical lakes, streams, and wetlands from harmful pollutants and other threats. But the Trump administration’s rule guts states’ and tribes’ authority to safeguard their waters, allowing it to ram through pipelines and other projects that can decimate vital water resources.
This is a dangerous mistake. It makes a mockery of this EPA’s claimed respect for ‘cooperative federalism.’
This action undermines how our foundational environmental laws work. The federal government should be setting baseline standards, while states apply and enhance them to the benefit of their unique natural resources and residents.
DEAR FRIENDS – beginning today, you will find a series of wildlife Vote! shorts posted here. This is the most consequential election of our time for myriad reasons however, our focus is on wildlife and the environment. The current administration and senate has spent the past three and a half years wreaking havoc on our environment and causing great harm to wild creatures. Examples include trying to redefine the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, dismantling environmental protections afforded by clean water and air acts, selling the rights to public park lands to fossil fuel companies, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, denying global climate warming, defunding research and researchers; the damaging list is simply to long too write here.
Some of the wild creatures in this little series, such as Snowy Egrets and North American River Otters have been directly and positively affected by protections in place for decades, the very protections the Republicans are dismantling and destroying. Some of the speices have been less directly affected by these protections, but survive by them nonetheless. All living creatures are interconnected in the web of life and all living creature need clean water, clean air, and safe habitat.
I hope you enjoy these short shorts! Please share and please, VOTE the Blue Wave –
Vote for Science
Vote for the Environment
Vote for Racial Justice
Vote for a Woman’s Right to Choose
Vote for Equal Rights for LGBTQ Persons
Vote for Wildlife
Vote for an Economy that Works for All
Vote for Fiscal Responsibility
Vote to End Voter Suppression
Vote to Educate All
Vote for Jobs
Late yesterday afternoon Charlotte and I encountered this frisky young buck. I was curious to learn if you could tell the age of a deer by its antlers and found this growth chart on the Animal Diversity Web. Judging by the chart, he appears to be older than six months but younger than 11 months.
This morning on my way out I saw the most gratifying sight. A Red Fox KIT was carrying a captured rabbit in its mouth! Why so happy to see this? Because it means our neighborhood Red Fox family is dispersing, the Mama and Papa fox have taught the kits well, and that the young ones are able to hunt for themselves! The moment was so fleeting I wasn’t able to take a photo but the sighting reminded me that I hadn’t finished posting the last batch of photos from the week with the Good Harbor Beach Red Fox Family.
Face to face encounter with a kit – I was very quietly filming his siblings when I heard a faint scraping/rustling noise behind me and turned to see this curious one, perched on a garage roof above looking down. We were only several feet apart and for many good long moments we were able to examine each other eye to eye before he scampered off the roof. Dad Red Fox
I just want to add for the benefit of people who think Red Fox are a nuisance and may even be a bit frightened by their presence. Red Fox are solitary animals (unless denning). They do not hunt in packs and are about half to two-thirds the size of the Eastern Coyote, also seen in our neighborhoods. Their diet consists largely of small rodents, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, fruits, berries, and insects. Generally speaking, they do not go after people’s cats and dogs.
A tremendous plus to having Red Fox in our community is that they are the best hunters of mice and chipmunks, far better than Eastern Coyotes. Chipmunks and mice are the greatest vectors (carriers) of Lyme disease. So the presence of Red Fox is a good thing to help cut down on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Because Red Fox compete with Eastern Coyotes for habitat, and because Coyotes eat fox kits, Red Fox are denning closer to human dwellings as they deem it a safer choice than denning where they may encounter a Coyote.
The one drawback to the presence of Red Fox is that they also eat chickens. I am sure. you have heard the phrase don’t allow the ‘fox to guard the henhouse.’ The root of that phrase comes from the fact that unlike many of their competing predators, fox cache their food, meaning they will kill a large number, and then hide the food, which has been known to happen at henhouses.
Here are some fun facts I learned about Red Fox while photographing and filming the Good Harbor Beach fox family –
Red Fox are super fast runners that can reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. And they can also leap more than six feet high!
The Red Fox was originally thought to be introduced from Europe in the 19th century, recent DNA tests have shown that these foxes are indeed native to North America.
To keep warm in winter, the Red Fox uses its bushy tail.
Enjoy any fox sightings, Red or Gray, and please let me know if you are continuing to see them in your neighborhood.
Over the week I spent filming the Red Fox family, the kits became habituated to my presence. I worried about that, worried for the sake of the kits, especially after one incident where I heard a noise behind me and a kit was standing over my head looking down at me, only a mere few feet away. Several weeks later I was walking in the same neighborhood and the sound of hooves running wildly alerted me to a deer running pell mell up the hill, with a kit in hot pursuit. Red Fox adults don’t even take down deer and I wondered if the kit was practicing its hunting skills and also wondered, thinking about my eye to eye encounter with a kit, if I hadn’t looked up when one was looking down at me, if he was planning to pounce on me!
Every morning the dog and vixen brought mouths full of fresh prey to their kits. It was startling to see when an entire nest of baby bunnies was delivered, which one would imagine would be breakfast for all three kits, but was quickly devoured by the first kit in line waiting for breakfast.
As the season progressed, some early mornings we would see the foxes make several trips across the beach, always with a large rabbit, or two, clutched tightly in it jaws on the return trip.
The Red Fox adults left dead small mammals all around the family’s home base, I think to encourage the youngsters to begin hunting on their own.
My favorite few moments of filming was on a particularly beautiful morning when Dad was acting very chill. He had delivered breakfast, licked one of the kits clean, and was relaxing on the grassy knoll. The kit playfully surprise attacked him, coming in from behind and pouncing with an open jaw. It was beautiful to watch this familial scene with the Red Fox family unfold and is a moment I won’t soon forget.
Here are a few more photos. I have another batch, the last day with the Fox Family and will try to find the time to post next week.
On an early morning walk in May, I came upon the sweetest scene of three Red Fox kits romping at the edge of a home with an expansive granite foundation. They were having a wonderful time of it, playing hide and seek by slipping in between the cracks and crevices of the great granite blocks and boulders, running up the rocky hillside, and just being adorably puppy-like. I was perched in a well-hidden location and standing very quietly, when Mom soon arrived with a small mammal in her mouth.
Hide and seek while waiting for breakfast
I spent the next week or so checking on the family each morning, sometimes lucky enough to see, and sometimes they were nowhere to be found. I was hoping to simply capture a few minutes of footage to show how Red Fox share the same beach habitat as Piping Plovers, but saw so much more!
It’s a real challenge for vixen and dog to keep a family of healthy, active pups well fed. Both bring freshly caught prey to the kits continuously during the day and night. The Good Harbor Beach male was visibly more robust; the female was thin, with a slender concaving silhouette. From what I have read, she needs about a thousand extra calories a day to both nurse and hunt. By the time the kits are weened, she will have lost 20 to 30 percent of her body weight.
The kits menu ranged from the tiniest shrew, to baby bunnies, adult bunnies, and even a very large Crow that was eaten less, and played with more. The youngsters took turns shaking the Crow in their mouths, much like how you may have seen a puppy shake a toy vigorously in its mouth. Red Fox are omnivorous and their diet also includes fruits, berries, grasses, crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, squirrels, mice and other small mammals.
Based on the kits’ eye color and coat, I would estimate the three were two and a half months to three months old when these photos were taken.
For the first eight weeks of its life, a Red Fox has blue eyes. At about two months of age, its eyes turn brown. You can also estimate the age of the pup by noting the color of its coat. When the kits are in their den for the first month or so of its life, they are blue-gray. They become sandy colored for the next six to eight weeks and then develop their beautiful red color from three months on.
The family has since moved from its cozy granite den and is now most likely still together as a family, but living in a more woodsy, brambly location. Coming next, Part Two.Note the brown eyes and developing red coat
Good Morning PiPl Friends,
Today marks another milestone, ten days old. After today, we begin to think of chicks as two weeks old, three weeks, old, etc. Thank you to Everyone for your watchful eyes and kind interest!
Yes, Duncan, if the tracks you saw were down by the water, it was our GHB Red Fox. I think it was the Dad (the Mom is much skinnier, from nursing and scavenging food for the kits). He was bringing a rabbit breakfast to the kits.
Sally – such a joy to see when they stretch and try to “flap” their tiny wing buds <3
The cooler weather this weekend is a tremendous break for the PiPls. Last night I stopped by and people are partying much later on the beach on weeknights than in previous years, surely because of coronavirus and a lack of jobs. I picked up six empty full-sized whiskey bottles, three were in the roped off area, and fifty plus beer cans that had been buried in the sand. That smell of stale beer at 6 in the morning is so Gross!
Thank you Deb for the Monarch sighting report. The milkweed is in full bloom in the dunes–perfect timing for the Monarchs to begin arriving. I have a friend who is so worried she hasn’t seen any in her garden. I’ve been telling her they usually arrive around July 4th, in a normal year. She will be thrilled when I share your sighting.
Thank you PiPl Ambassadors!
Happy July 3rd.
From the Center for Coastal Studies
Yesterday afternoon a BLUE WHALE was sighted just 13 nautical miles east of Truro, MA by the Center for Coastal Studies Right Whale Aerial Surveillance team!
Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are the largest animal ever known to have lived, growing up to 100 ft in length and weighing between 76 – 150 tons.
The Northwest Atlantic blue whale population is estimated to be between 400- 600 individuals and they are mostly commonly documented in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada. There are sporadic sightings of them off New England, but when they are seen they are generally in very deep water hundreds of miles offshore.
The most recent sighting of blue whales (that we know of) in the area was by the New England Aquarium aerial team in February, where they documented two individuals 130 miles offshore.