Tag: Foxes

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On San Juan Island, 2021 was the Year of the Foxes

Only a few years ago, in the early 2000s, the fox population was faring poorly, with high disease and malnutrition rates. Naturalists began figuring out that the foxes had become dependent on humans feeding them from roadsides and the like, and then starved when the tourists (who come here mainly in summer) disappear.

So the island community began an active and vigorous awareness campaign to get people to stop feeding them. Eventually, the foxes stopped begging and returned to hunting the voluminous numbers of mice and voles (and sometimes rabbits) that live on the island. 

Their numbers appear to be flourishing, and moreover, they really look so much healthier now than what we were seeing a decade ago. The breeding females—who do appear gaunt when nursing, but seem to return to health when their kits are weaned—are producing very healthy-looking packs of offspring.

One of the nuances of this fox population is that there are a number of melanistic red foxes—that is, foxes that have black or silverish coats. They are scattered throughout the population, and it’s not unusual to see a melanistic mother with bright red babies, and vice versa.

The best time to see the kits is in spring. But foxes’ coats really become splendid in the late fall and early winter. Regardless the time of year, they are always a delight to see and observe.

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