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Vulpinology Retrospective

–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.

Domstic Foxes– Pet Foxes?

Pet foxes? Believe it or not, there are foxes breed for domestic pets. This practice has its roots in a scientific experiment that started in the 1960s in Russia. The goal was to see if domestication had any basis in genes and if so, they wanted to replicate the domestic of wolves into dogs using foxes

Since then, there has been some interest in adopting foxes as pets. However, whereas dogs have been around for ages and most of the wild behaviors are lost, pet foxes still retain some of their wild instincts. Therefore, they are great foxes, but terrivle pets

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. This ensures that you are capable of owning the animal and caring for it.

However, some places will only allow you to have a fox if you are an educator. There’s special licensing for this, but it means the fox isn’t so much a pet and more of an animal ambassador for teaching.

An Animal School Development!

THOR THOR

We started work on a new project here at Animal School. In early August, we began creating a marble fox program, complete with a talking marble fox mascot. The idea is that the mascot would host the program and educate folks on life as a fox with some fun interactive demonstrations and what it takes as a species to undergo domestication. And of course, we’ll talk about the difficulties of foxes as pets.

This program is set to be available for booking in September. For more information, please contact Nick Hadad at nickhadad12@gmail.com

Stay wild!

Posted in animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, bird mascots, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, foxes tapping the earth's magnetic field, Multimedia, nature conservation, storrytelling, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife

My Life as an Animal – Reflections of a Mascot

swift-teaching

Hey, folks! It’s Nick from Animal School. I’m the guy who typically brings our talking characters to life.  I know I’ve said this before in earlier posts but I’m constantly amazed by things I learn or experience in this line of costume work.  While my work as a sports mascot over the last fifteen years certainly has its amusing stories, I’m actually finding that being a talking educational animal ambassador is a lot more interesting.

I realized early on that if I am suited up as a certain species, I need to be well versed in all aspects of that animal’s life. I’m often approached by folks who have a variety in depth questions about current topics on that species, or questions about its behavior, diet and even how certain illness can affect it.  Sometimes, someone comes up with a question and I find that I don’t have an answer.  Experts get stumped more often than one would think!  Thus, I head home after the event and I spend some time researching until I can deliver an accurate answer.

For example, I was performing as Swift the Fox at one of the farmers markets and a couple had a question on alternative treatments for foxes dealing with mange. At the time, I only knew of one type of medicine that could be administered but they had heard that at times, under certain circumstances, it may not be enough to help a sick fox and they were eager to know about new treatments,.  I just had to look into this and I’m pleased to say that after some digging, I did find out there is in fact, a different treatment… and perhaps this will be on a future blog post.

Something else I discovered came to me while I was performing as Howler Wolf at a village fair event. I realized people will freely share their opinions about certain species with me.  Specifically on that afternoon as Howler, I was giving howling demonstrations and I was approached by a local wildlife rehabilitator.  I love the work rehabilitators do and I had spent a few years growing up working for some.  Much to my surprise, he informed me that he hated wolves.

I was a bit surprised but I didn’t get offended and I didn’t bite his head off for how he felt. It did, however, make me think that the public’s perception of wolves wasn’t limited into two categories (i.e., those who like wolves and those who don’t). And, after doing some research, I found there were multiple view points and perceptions, like those who love wolves, those who know what life as a wolf is like, what living with wolves is like, those who see the wolf as a spiritual symbol, those who believe wolves are hurting game animal populations, those who see wolves as a threat to livestock, or in the extreme cases I’ve read about, those who see wolves as a symbol of government overreach…  It was fascinating to learn all of this.

I’m sure as I continue to perform as these characters, I am certain I’ll never find a dull moment. I’ll continue to learn, discover and get some insight on how people think and feel about certain animals.  This is the start of some sort of wild adventure, to say the least!

Stay wild, everyone!

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Vulpinology 101 Part 6 – The Island Foxes Overview

The Channel Island Fox  (Urocyon littoralis)

island fox

(Photo credit)

There are six types of fox that make their home on six of the eight channels islands. Each species has its own island and has adapted and evolved specifically to fit in its ecosystem.  They are similar to the gray fox and it’s believed that the gray fox is this species’ ancestor.  However, these foxes are much smaller than any mainland fox.

Older sources cite that the Channel Island Fox has six species and they are:

  1. Short tailed fox
  2. Island gray fox
  3. Channel islands fox
  4. Channel island gray fox
  5. California channel island fox
  6. Insular fox

Newer sources, including one belonging to the Channel Islands National Park, refer to these foxes by which island they inhabit.  This makes it much easier to identify them.  They are also identified as ONE species, the Channel Islands fox and therefor, each of the six is a subspecies:

  1. Santa Cruz fox (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae)
  2. San Miguel fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis)
  3. Santa Rosa fox (Urocyon littoralis santarosae)
  4. Santa Catalina fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae)
  5. San Nicolas Fox (Urocyon littoralis dickey)
  6. San Clemente fox (Urocyon littoralis clementae)

Four of these species underwent catastrophic population declines in the 1990s, with some reaching as low as 15 individual animals (which was specifically the case for the San Miguel fox). The species as a whole was listed as critically endangered and drastic recovery programs were formulated.

Don’t worry, the news gets better for these foxes. We’ll explore this further on Vulpinology 101 Part 8.  There, we’ll cover how the population decline occurred, what was being done to save them, what you can do.

Stay wild!

 

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Vulpinology 101 Part 4 – The Red Fox

red fox

Vulpinology 101 Part 4 – The Red Fox

(Photo credit !!!)

The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

The Red Fox is the most common type of fox in the world and that’s a credit to its amazing ability to adapt to its environment. They can make their home just about anywhere, including in urban areas.  It is native to North America, northern Africa, part of the Middle East, most of Europe and Asia and it was introduced by European settlers to Australia.

This fox varies in size, ranging from the size of a large house cat to the size of a small dog. Red foxes can come in a variety of colors, such as silver, black, tawny, orange, platinum and a countless others.  Regardless of their fur color, red foxes will always have a white tip on their tail, called a flag.  Fur variations are often the result of genetic mutations and sometimes purposeful cross breeding, and we’ll explore this further in Vulpinology Part 7.

Red foxes are monogamous and both parents will raise their litter of kits. They teach them a variety of skills before the young are old enough to go out on their own.  Litter sizes range from two to twelve kits.  Red foxes are typically nocturnal animals, hunting from dusk to dawn but, like many other species of fox, they will become active during the day when they have a litter of kits to feed.

These foxes have a variety of vocalizations and sounds, as I’m sure many of you have guessed since the emergence of the song, “What Does the Fox Say?” These range from trill barks, screams, chirps, whines and gekkering.  They all have specific meanings, ranging from greetings, danger alarms, mating calls, to aggressive “back offs” during courting season and territory protection.

Like all foxes, the red fox is an omnivore, eating a variety of plants and animals. Mice, rabbits, voles, snakes, shrews, fish, insects, birds, squirrels, waterfowl, berries, small larvae-filled beehives, roots and nuts make up its diet.  The fox is a keen hunter, making excellent use of its senses, especially when its prey is lurking under thick snow in the winter.  Its signature hunting move is a leaping pounce, sometimes referred to as a mousing pounce, landing head first into the snow.  Recent studies suggest that, especially in the winter, the red fox taps into the Earth’s magnetic field, using it as a targeting system, by which the fox waits for the sounds of its prey to reach the same point where it feels the tilt in the axis of the magnetic field, and then leaps in a northeasterly direction.  While this is still being studied, it’s currently the strongest theory as to why foes pounce in this one particular direction with nearly a 73% success rate in catching prey versus their success rate when pouncing from any other direction (read more on this exciting theory here!)  The more studying that’s being done on this theory, the sooner we hope to have an easier way to explain how this might work.

Needless to say, red foxes are fascinating. Stay tuned for more fox facts on our next episode of Vulpinology 101.

Stay wild!

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, Carnivore, coyotes, ecology, educational mascots, endangered species, environment, foxes, kit fox, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, San Joaquin Kit Fox, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education, wolves

Vulpinology 101 Part 3 – The Kit Fox

kit fox 1

The Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis)

(Photo from FoxesWorlds )

The Kit Fox lives in the drier regions of the southwestern United States and Mexico. It has a slender shaped body, a larger head and larger ears.  Believe it or not, its big ears help keep this fox cool in the hot sun by allowing blood vessels to vent heat through the thin skin.  The fennec fox of Africa has this exact same attribute for the exact same reason.

With a sleek coat of tawny, brown/gray fur and a black tipped tail, this little fox feats on a wide variety of rodents, ranging from kangaroo rats, snakes, rabbits/jack rabbits, birds, mice, voles, and various insects. And, keeping true to the omnivorous nature of all foxes they will also eat a variety of fruits and plants, even going after tomatoes.

The kit fox breeding pairs will often consist of the same two foxes for many years but it’s not uncommon for them to choose a new mate before the start of a new breeding season. Their young are born in the spring and their litter size can range between four and fourteen kits!

An interesting subspecies of this fox is the San Joaquin Kit Fox, living only within the valley area of the same name. They were added to the endangered species list in 1967 and their population is still in trouble despite recovery efforts.  The two big factors are a loss of habitat and competing for said habitat and food with invasive red foxes.  Thirdly, due to the extermination of gray wolves that once lived in the area, coyote populations have exploded and sadly, this little fox is on the coyote’s menu.

Stay tuned to the blog for our next episode of Vulpinology 101!

And stay wild!

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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!

 

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, Carnivore, coyotes, ecology, educational mascots, endangered species, environment, foxes, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vuplines, wildlife, wildlife education

Vulpinology 101 Episode 1: The Swift Fox

As Inola explained in the video, we’re launching a new program called Vulpinology and it’s all about the fox! The world “vulpine” means ‘fox-like” and the suffix ‘-ology’ means ‘the study of,” and th at’s the goal of this program!  While our live program will be interactive and hands on, our online version will consist of short introductory videos and a post about each species of fox.  We’ll start with the six main species that can be found in North America.

So let’s dig right in and get the scoop of our first fox on the list: The Swift Fox!

swift fox

(Photo Credit and further info)

The Swift Fox (Vulpes velox)

The Swift Fox is the smallest fox species in North America.  Coming in around the size of your average house cat and weighing  between four and six pounds, it’s no wonder why this is one of the speediest foxes, with a sprint that can reach 30mph.  Talk about being light on their feet!

The Swift Fox at one point had a large range of habitat, spreading across a big portion of the grasslands of the US and into southern Canada but as their habitat shrank due to the advancement of human settlement, the population of the swift fox declined. It also didn’t help that they made for easy prey for coyotes as their population grew considerably.

As a result, this fox has been on the endangered species list and remains a protected specie. There have been recovery efforts by both the government and various recovery teams since the mid-1990s.  It has been a success so far!  Currently, thanks to captive breeding programs and other efforts, the swift fox’s population is rising once again.  It might not be long before they move off of the endangered list.

Like all foxes, this specie is omnivorous, which means they eat a wide variety of both plants and animals. Being a smaller fox, they tend to specialize in the hunting of mice, voles, small snakes, and various insects, but can also go after prairie dogs, rabbits as well as various berries and root plants.

And, like all foxes, both parents look after and raise the kits until they are old enough to fend for themselves. An average litter can have up to eight kits!  Typically, they are born in the spring and are ready to venture out on their own by the end of the summer or early fall.

Like some foxes, these little guys are typically nocturnal, hunting for food mostly between dusk and dawn. They might make exceptions, however, if they have a little of kits to feed.  Hungry babies will force the parents out to gather food during the day.

Stay tuned to our blog and various pages for our next episode of Vulpinology! Until then, stay wild!