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Vulpinology Retrospective – Loki is Anything but Low Key

–By Nick Hadad—

Looking Back:

Just about a year ago, we here at Animal School filmed our Vulpinology 101 series, hosted by two of our talking mascots, Swift the Fox and Inola the Arctic Fox. The purpose of the series was to introduce and talk about the six different species of fox in North America and some of the interesting fox facts about the species in general. We filmed a total of eight episodes.

Those six species of fox include:

The Swift Fox

The Arctic Fox

The Kit Fox

The Red Fox

The Gray Fox

The Channel Island Fox

We also discussed the impressive come back for the six different Channel Island fox species in Episode 8, as they were almost driven to extinction by predation by golden eagles that were invasive to the islands, and a devastating outbreak of canine distemper. In fact, these foxes have had the quickest population increase for an endangered species, coming from just fifteen individual animals in some cases to normal levels between the late 1990s and 2016.

From there, we talked about fox fur color mutations and phases in Episode 7. At the time, a photo of a Pink Champagne fox was going viral, and for good reason. It was a beautiful animal! A lot of folks believed it was a rare species but after doing some research, we discovered that foxes with such wild colorations were still technically red foxes and had been bred for decades to get a specific fur color. Sometimes, this was done for the fur trade and other times, more for domestication.

Some Foxy News!

LOKI LOKI

Speaking of domestic foxes, a few months ago, the Wildlife Educators Coalition adopted a Georgian Marble Fox, named Loki. Loki has a number of colors in his fur, ranging from white to tawny, to brown, silver and black, hence the marble description. His domestic ancestry can be traced 60 years back to a farm in Russia, where a lot of the fur mutation projects began.

Loki is adorable! But I was quickly reminded how difficult it is to own a fox. As we say, Loki is a fox that is great at being a fox because that’s what he’s supposed to be, and therefore, he makes a terrible pet!

Pet Fox Considerations:

It’s important to note that if you are interested in adopting a fox, it’s our strong recommendation that you do as much research as you can on the subject. While foxes are canines, they are very different from dogs and have very specific needs. To start off, they have unique health and nutritional needs (for example, their digestive system cannot handle beef). Therefore, their diet needs to be fairly beef free but varied enough to ensure they get the complete nutritional requirements.

Also, since domestic foxes are still very much foxes, they need a lot of room to run and play and require lots of enrichment. You also need to keep your home “fox proof.” That is to say, they will try and succeed at getting into everything you do not want them to. Keeping things out of harm’s way will be a challenge for both you and your fox.

Also, certain types of domestic foxes may not be able to properly handle outdoor temperatures in winter or summer. Arctic foxes may be all right handling trips to play in the snow but might need some help keeping cool in the summer. Fennec foxes may need a lot more attention in the cooler weather.

Is it Legal to have a Fox?

Is it legal in your area to even have a fox? Each state has its own set of rules. In some places, you can adopt a domestic fox but must have proof it was from a breeder and not from the wild. In other areas, it may come down to the legalities of owning a specific type of fox species (i.e., it might be legal to have a marble or fennec fox but not a gray or a pure red one). Some states do not allow you to have a pet fox at all.

Certain states might also have strict regulations on where the fox can come from, so make sure you adhere to any transportation and import laws. At times, it might not be lawful to bring in a fox from out of state or even from another county in the same state.

And lastly, you might require licensing. Loki was indeed bred specifically for domestication but he was obtained with an educational permit for the WEC. This means that he is an animal used for educational purposes and not really as a pet. This type of licensing is required in New York for marble foxes.

Considering Adopting a Fox? Think Twice!

Why? Unlike dogs and cats that have been in domestication for most of human history, foxes have only just started to be bred for this purpose. Again, only between 60 and 100 years (this doesn’t include the 300 years of breeding just for fur as domestication was not the objective of those breeders at the time). Thus, they are still very much wild. And, Loki’s adoptive human, Donna, can share with you countless stories of how he’s destroying her house.

An Animal School Development!

THOR THOR

Despite the chaos that little fox stirs up, he’s an amazing ambassador for wildlife. And, his introduction to the group inspired us to start work on a new project here at Animal School. In early August, we began work on creating a marble fox program, complete with a talking marble fox mascot designed to look exactly like Loki. The idea is that the mascot would open the program and educate folks on life as a fox with some fun interactive demonstrations and what it takes to as a species to undergo domestication. And of course, we’ll talk about the difficulties of foxes as pets. The program will then switch over to the real fox, Loki. It’s no secret that he’ll be the true star of the show!

This program is set to be available for booking in September. For more information, please contact Nick Hadad at nhadad12@yahoo.com

Need More Marble Fox Facts?

We’ll have another blog post up soon focusing on this unique fox. Until then, stay wild!

 

 

Posted in animal facts, animals, arctic wildlife, biodiversity, education, Entertainment, environment, Fun Animal Facts, nature, teaching, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Chill Dudes

For this round of Fun Animal Facts, we’re taking a look at animals that thrive in the cold. Maybe we can learn some coping techniques from them for the winter months!

  • Polar bears have two layers of fur and a thick layer of body fat, which serve as insulation. Their compact ears and small tails also help prevent heat loss. http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/adaptation/cold-climate
  • Arctic foxes have incredible hearing, aided by their wide, front-facing ears, which allow them to locate the precise position of their prey beneath the snow. When an Arctic fox hears its next meal under the snow-pack, it leaps into the air and pounces, breaking through the layer of snow right onto the prey beneath. http://www.defenders.org/arctic-fox/basic-facts
  • Harp seals often hunt for fish and crustaceans at depths of 300 feet (90 meters) and may dive to nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters). They are able to remain submerged for up to 15 minutes! http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/harp-seal/#harp-seal-closeup.jpg
  •  There are 17 species of penguins in the world, all of which live in the Southern Hemisphere.

    The Little Penguin, also known as the Blue Penguin, is most likely the inspiration for the penguins in the Mario Kart series. http://www.kidzone.ws/animals/penguins/facts10.htm

  • Snow leopards, native to the rugged and snowy highlands of Central Asia, have fur on their stomachs that is about 5 inches thick. https://owlcation.com/stem/Facts-about-Snow-Leopards
  • Snowy owls, like Hedwig from the Harry Potter series, are unique because they mainly hunt in the daytime. http://www.defenders.org/snowy-owl/basic-facts
  • As we’ve mentioned before, fish that live close to icy surfaces have an anti-freeze in their blood that prevents ice from spreading throughout their bodies if they come in contact with it. These “anti-freeze” glycoprotein molecules also provide fish a tiny cushion against the end of sharp ice crystals so the crystals are less likely to puncture cell membranes.

    However, only fish that are likely to encounter ice have these anti-freezes. Deeper living fish, way below the level of floating ice, don’t have anti-freeze, they have a freezing point above that of the sea-water in which they live, and really should be frozen solid. http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/science/cold_all_animals.php

Posted in Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, arctic wildlife, Arts, biodiversity, birds, birds of prey, Carnivore, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Herbivore, Mammals, Marsupials, mascots, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, vlogs, vultures, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf conservation, wolf reintroduction, wolves

Ask Howler Episode 2

Episode 2 of Ask Howler is here! In this episode, we discuss marsupials, wolf fur variations and the differences between ravens and crows!

As always, you can submit your wildlife questions by commenting here or on our YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. Howler is always eager to lend a paw!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, arctic wildlife, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, kestrels, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, Uncategorized

A Bird’s Eye View

We recently filmed a series of videos with Braddock bay’s Barb French with our character Kele Kestrel. Our goal was to shoot between five and six short videos, focusing on what birds of prey live in our area, why they are important, why birds migrate, how and why bands are used to research bird migration, and some simple bird facts.  We shot on location at Braddock Bay’s public Hawk Blind in the Owl Woods in North Greece, NY.  It was a hot morning but the blind was sheltered; I was grateful to not be terribly hot in the kestrel suit.

Kele Kestrel originally was built years ago by two people: my friend Dan built the body suit and Erin from Keystone Mascots built the head.  She built the beak to be wide open so I could both see and speak clearly through it.  Our friend Casey made Kele’s scarf and leg band.  At some point, we will upgrade the body suit as the arms are a bit tight.

This series is the first in which we interviewed someone but it will not be the last.  We have plans on doing many more in the future.  But for now, here are all of the Bird’s Eye View! Enjoy!

 

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, arctic wildlife, biodiversity, Carnivore, ecology, educational mascots, environment, foxes, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vuplines, wildlife, wildlife education, wolves

Vulpinology 101 Part 2 – The Arctic Fox

arctic fox

The Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus)

(Photo from the WWF)

The arctic fox lives only in the northern most parts of the northern hemisphere. This area includes Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.  That being said, this fox does share some of its habitat range with the red fox, mainly in its southernmost regions.  The body shape of this fox is rounder than most other foxes which helps to store body heat, which can help keep it warm in some of the coldest weather imaginable. Pair that along with its thick coat of fur and an increase in the amount of body fat by around 50% to insulate them, and you have a warm, happy fox!

Speaking of fur, this clever fox changes its coats to match the season. Like most of the arctic animals, it has a brownish coat during the summer.  And when winter comes, it grows a long, thick coat of white fur that even covers the undersides of its paws.  These are some extraordinary adaptations!

Arctic foxes, like most foxes, are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Lemmings, mice, fish, various birds/seabirds, small seals, and snowshoe hares make up the bulk of its meat diet.  However, this clever fox will often follow polar bears (from a safe distance, of course) and wait for them to finish a meal before gobbling up the leftovers.  This scavenger technique comes in handy when food isn’t as available.  In the spring and summer, there is a variety of plant life the arctic fox can harvest for its meals which include various berries and roots, amongst other things.

Being one of the smaller animals of the arctic, the fox can become the prey of polar bears, arctic wolves, and lynxes. Sometimes the winter coat can help the fox blend in with the snow to avoid being seen but otherwise, it must rely on its cunning and speed to keep itself from being caught.

Both the male and female fox will mate for life and raise their kits together. While the average litter of kits is between five and eight, they can have as much as 25 kits, which is the most possible of any species of fox.  Arctic fox kits are usually born in May, and while that might be when things start to get warm down here in the US, it is still quite cold in the arctic.  It can be challenging for young kits to stay warm and sadly, some may perish.

Unlike the dens of most other foxes, which are small single, double or triple roomed underground spaces, the arctic fox makes complex dens with many tunnels and room. These can cover quite a bit of space, sometimes up to 1200 square yards.  That’s huge!

Stay tuned for our next exciting episode of Vulpinology 101!

Stay wild!