|A gray fox pup peeks out from under a barn door, an improvised den entrance.|
The fox family packed down a dirt runway under the barn door - just like the entrance to an earthen underground den. From reading Random Truth's accounts of San Joaquin kit foxes, I knew many family interactions would occur at the den entrance. We set up wildlife cameras in front of the barn and over the summer we accumulated thousands of photos and videos of the fox pups. First a head would peek out from underneath the big red door, then a small body and fuzzy tail. Soon another pup would wriggle out and playtime would begin. Lots of running, biting, clumsy tackles, and tail pulling.
|Gray fox pup checking out the world in front of the den.|
|The four pups were constantly wrestling.|
|One pup was noticeably smaller than the others.|
|An adult fox standing at the same location for comparison.|
|Check out those baby teeth.|
|The adult foxes would frequently drink out of the birdbaths at night.|
|The pups would play fight at the den entrance for hours.|
|The black line down the length of their tails is a distinct pattern to distinguish gray foxes from red foxes and coyotes.|
|This juvenile golden eagle is scavenging on a steer carcass and could easily pick up a fox pup.|
When the mom fox appeared in front of the barn during the day, she would be mobbed by hungry pups. She would nurse standing up, while the pups kneaded her teat. Sometimes a pup would rub her mouth - a begging signal for regurgitated food. From inside the house, I watched her fetch plums from the orchard and drop them in front of the pups. She looked tired going back and forth from the orchard to the barn. The pups mostly rolled the plums in sport but I later found half chewed plums on the back porch.
|Mom fox grooming pup at den entrance.|
|While most of the pups are nursing, one pup is tapping its mother's mouth to beg for regurgitated food.|
|Delivering plums to the pups.|
As long as no humans are evident, the gray foxes look at ease in the farmyard.
|A pup runs away from the den towards the backyard.|
|A risky interspecies greeting.|
This is the first in a three-part series about a gray fox family living near our home at the Dipper Ranch. I'll be writing these posts over the next month. Every few days between the written posts, I'll also share some of the many photos and videos we got of the rambunctious fox pups. Recently, several associates have been asking about wildlife cameras, so I may post some short examples about the successes and failures of cam-trapping this fox family.
|The fox pups are agile enough to jump into the birdbath without knocking it over.|
San Joaquin kit foxes, Vulpes macrotis mutica
Bobcat, Lynx rufus
Coyote, Canis latrans
Northern Pacific rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus
Golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos
George A. Feldhamer, Bruce C. Thompson, Joseph A. Chapman, editors. Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation. 2nd edition. John Hopkins University Press. 2003.
Mark Elbroch and Kurt Rinehart. Behavior of North American Mammals. Peterson Reference Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011.