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!
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
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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.
Good Morning PiPl Friends!
Thermo-snuggling for the better part of the early morning and all was quiet. Dad suddenly began piping loudly, jumped up, and flew from Marshmallow. I was busy watching Marshmallow when out of nowhere, our GHB Red Fox trotted through the backside of home base, mere feet from where they had been snuggling, with Dad hot on the Fox’s heels!
At this point in Marshmallow’s life, I don’t think the Red Fox poses a tremendous threat, but they are a threat nonetheless. Anything canid, whether dog, fox, or coyote may step inadvertently on a young chick when they are hunkered down in place and are not yet fully fledged. Additionally, Red Fox dig and hunt shorebird eggs. A Piping Plover cannot tell the difference between a Red Fox and a domestic dog. Dogs have been allowed by their owners to chase after shorebirds for sport, which is another reason the PiPls find the Fox so threatening.
Shortly after the Fox sighting, the pair headed to the Creek where lots of yummy invertebrates were had, including a mini mollusk that you can see the tail end of in Marshmallow’s mouth, and sea worms, fat and thin. Heidi came along soon after. I think the birds Heidi remarked on are the Killdeer family; they were there earlier at the Creek until Dad had chased them off the scene to clear the way for his Marshmallow 🙂Added note about the Red Fox family – The Red Foxes we see currently at Good Harbor Beach are almost always carrying fresh prey in their mouths, small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels, for example, and I don’t think they are going to drop an adult rabbit to chase after a Piping Plover. The Foxes are now crisscrossing the beach several times a day with their mouths full on the return trip, which leads me to believe, the kits have not yet dispersed and Mom and Dad Fox have their paws full supplying the rapidly growing youngsters with nourishment.
The Red Fox diet also includes fresh fruit and berries. If you have a Mulberry tree ripe with fruit you may currently be seeing them in your backyard. I am looking forward to when our neighbor’s apples begin falling from her tree and hope so much our neighborhood Red Fox finds the fallen apple feast.
Heads up – very buggy at the Creek this morning. Hardly any trash today, and isn’t that great news that Mayor Sefatia has closed the beach to nonresidents!
Have a super day!
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