Posted in Adaptation, Animal Adaptations, Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, arctic wildlife, Arts, biodiversity, conservation, domestic foxes, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, fox fur mutations, fox fur phases, fox subspecies, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, gray fox, kit fox, learning, Mammals, Marble Fox, mascots, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, red fox, San Joaquin Kit Fox, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, vulpines, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

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 Adaptation, Animal Adaptations, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animals, biodiversity, ecology, education, Entertainment, environment, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, learning, Mammals, nature, Nonprofit Groups, teaching, Uncategorized, vulpines, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

A Litter of Fox Facts

By Katie Gill, @CaffeinatedKid

 

Welcome back, Wild Things! Since we have been working on our fox adaptation program, we thought it would be fun to share some facts about foxes and what makes various vulpine species unique.

 

  • There are six major fox species in North America (excluding subspecies and admixtures): the Red Fox, A­rctic Fox, Kit Fox, Swift Fox, Channel Island Fox and Gray Fox
  • Red Foxes are the longest foxes in the world and Fennec Foxes are the shortest. From nose to tail, Red Foxes are usually between 30 to 56 inches long (762 – 1,422.40 mm), whereas Fennec Foxes are typically 17 to 28 inches long (431.80 – 711.20 mm).
  • Generally speaking, a fox’s tail is ¾ the length of its body. In other words, a fox with a body length of 20 inches would have a tail that is 15 inches long. Obvious, length and size vary depending on the species, the fox’s age and its sex, but most foxes’ tails are long and serve as blankets for the foxes to wrap around themselves to stay warm while they sleep.
Red Fox on mom.me pets.jpg
Red Fox, from Mom.me Pets
  • Red Foxes are well adapted to a variety of environments. In fact, they will live in cities and urban areas where people live and take advantage of the free meals our trash cans provide!
  • Foxes will stash excess food underground for safekeeping. To keep other animals away from the food, and in order to find it later, the fox will mark its cache by urinating over the buried pile.
  • Red Foxes are the most common species of fox on the planet
  • Red Foxes have a lot of stamina to hunt prey and avoid predators. They can run up to 30 mph!
Arctic Fox from True Wildlife.jpg
Arctic Fox, from True Wild Life
  • Because Arctic Foxes live in cold, barren locations, they are physically adapted to their environments. They have white fur to blend in with snow, which camouflages them from prey and predators alike.
  • Arctic Foxes also have round, compact bodies to minimize their exposure to cold air. Their short muzzles, ears and legs conserve heat, and their deep, thick fur allows them to maintain a consistent body temperature. They even have thick fur on their paws that allows them to walk on snow and ice.
  • The Arctic Fox is Iceland’s only native land animal
  • Arctic Foxes have lighter weight brown fur coats in summer that, again, allow them to be camouflaged in their surroundings

 

  • Foxes get the jump on their prey! They use their ears to locate the precise position of their prey, which is sometimes underground. When they hear the prey, they will leap into the air and pounce, breaking through any soil or snow to land right onto the prey underneath. Arctic Fox Pounces For Prey, via Discovery
  • Foxes will change their diets with the season in order to survive. They are opportunistic eaters, and will eat animals and plants. They will also scavenge for other animals’ leftovers.
  • Foxes are typically nocturnal. They evade predators and have an edge over their prey this way! Their speed, sense of sight and hearing give them an advantage.
Kit Fox foxes world.jpg
Kit Fox, from Foxes Worlds
  • Kit Foxes, which live in warm desert regions, are named in reference to their size. Fox babies are called “kits,” “pups” and “cubs.” Kit Foxes are called such because they are small. They have slender bodies, large heads, large ears, long tails and bushy fur
  • Kit Foxes only weigh around 4 pounds!
  • Kit Foxes big ears act as cooling vents, releasing excess heat from their bodies through the veins
  • Kit Foxes will occasionally come out during the day, which makes people more likely to see these guys around
  • Kit Foxes mate annually. Sometimes, they will keep the same partner, but they will often pick a new one each year.
  • Kit Foxes do establish territories, but they are not as protective of them as other fox species. It is common for Kit Foxes to share hunting ground with other Kits, but they will hunt at different times of the day or night.
Swift Fox From Earth Rangers
Swift Fox, from Earth Rangers
  • Swift Foxes are named for their speed. They can reach speeds of 31 mph, which allows them to catch fast prey and escape predators
  • The Swift Fox lives in the Great Plains region, between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Swifts can be found as far North as Canada, and have historically lived in Western Canada.
  • Swift Foxes hunt mostly at night, when it’s cooler out. This way, they won’t easily overheat from strenuous exercise. They usually only go out during the day to sun themselves, and only during winter.
  • Swift Foxes build several entrances to their underground burrows, which are up to 13 feet deep, so they can avoid being cornered by predators. When Swifts hunt at night, they don’t stray far from their den, in case they need to scurry back to safety.
  • Swift Foxes prefer open desert and short-or-mixed grass prairies, generally avoiding dense areas of vegetation. They live in cropland habitats such as wheat fields and ranch areas.
  • Swift Foxes can survive high on hilltops or down in valleys, as long as they can dig burrows that won’t be exposed to environmental threats like flooding.
Island Fox Pup on island fox.org.jpg
Channel Island Pup, from islandfox.org
  • Channel Island Foxes live on six of the eight Channel Islands in California. Because the foxes are specially adapted to their specific islands, each island has a distinct species, meaning there are six species of Channel Island Foxes.
  • Channel Island Foxes are offshoots of Gray Foxes, which is why they look similar. Channel Island Foxes are smaller than Gray Foxes, though
  • Channel Island Foxes get fish not by hunting but, rather, by scavenging for leftovers in bald eagles’ nests.
  • Channel Island Foxes have long legs, which help them to run fast, sneak up on prey and escape predators. In fact, their legs are the longest part of their bodies.
  • Channel Island Foxes turn their paws inward to climb, which helps them get fruit and birds to eat and, again, lets them escape predators.
Gray Fox from Wildlife Science Center.JPG
Gray Fox, from Wildlife Science Center
  • Gray Foxes are the only species of fox, excluding the Channel Island Fox, that can climb trees! They do so to escape predators like coyotes and wolves. They take advantage of this ability to hunt tree prey, such as squirrels
  • Gray Foxes are incredibly nervous around people. Therefore, unlike the Red Fox, the Gray Fox rarely enters urban areas.
  • Gray Foxes are gray, white, black, and russet, or reddish-brown. They blend into their woodland habitats, which camouflages them to predators and prey alike.
Fennec Fox from national Geographic Kids.jpg
Fennec Fox, from National Geographic Kids
  • Fennec Foxes are the smallest fox species in the world. They are native to North Africa, are less than 5 pounds and only about 2 feet long from nose to tail!
  • Fennec Foxes are nocturnal, since the North African deserts are HOT! The deserts get ridiculously cold at night, though, so the Fennecs have thick fur to keep them warm when they’re out on the prowl.
  • Fennec Foxes have massive ears. They can get as long as 6 inches, which is about ¼ of their total body length. These ears let them ear bugs and rodents that are underground, which Fennecs love to eat. Their ears also provide extra body surface area, which reduces the little guys’ body heat and keeps them cool!
  • Fennecs have thick, sandy fur that reflects sunlight and keeps them cool if they must go out during the day. Fur also covers the bottoms of their feet, preventing the hot sand from burning their little toes. The fur on their soles also provides traction, so they fox can easily run on loose sand and quickly dig burrows.
  • Fennec Foxes’ kidneys retain water to prevent dehydration, since deserts have little to no free water. These foxes can survive for long periods on only the moisture from what they eat, and possibly from dew that collects on the insides of their burrows.

 

Until next time: keep your wild side roaring.

Follow Animal School online!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WECAnimalSchool/

Twitter: @WECAnimalSchool

Instagram: Animal School @animal_school

YouTube: WEC’s Animal School: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLI0kQykroXfLe8_JT_YK8VEwcllHwZY-_

Sources

Fox Adaptations – http://www.sciencemadesimple.co.uk/curriculum-blogs/biology-blogs/animal-adaptations

Red Foxes – http://animals.mom.me/survival-adaptations-red-fox-6193.html

Arctic Foxes – http://www.defenders.org/arctic-fox/basic-facts

Kit Foxes – http://www.foxesworlds.com/kit-fox/

Swift Foxes – http://animals.mom.me/adaptations-swift-fox-9268.html

Channel Island Foxes – http://www1.islandfox.org/p/about-island-fox.html?m=1

http://funfoxfactskids.weebly.com/dietsurvival-adaptations.html

Gray Foxes – http://sciencing.com/gray-fox-adaptations-survival-behaviors-8447034.html

Fennec Foxes – http://animals.mom.me/physical-adaptations-fennec-foxes-6101.html

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, biodiversity, Carnivore, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, fox fur mutations, fox fur phases, fox subspecies, foxes, gray fox, kit fox, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, red fox, San Joaquin Kit Fox, Uncategorized, vuplines, wildlife, wildlife education

Vulpinology 101 Part 7 – Red Fox Fur Mutations

Red Fox Fur Mutations:

pinky

(Photo Credit)

As we mentioned in Episode 4, red foxes can come in a large variety of colors.  These changes in color happen when the genes responsible for fur colorations get mixed.

At times, these fur colorations can be switched up in nature, so you can spot red foxes in shades of black, silver, brown, gold and other odd colors. Of course, true red foxes will always have a white tip at the end of their tail.

So, what about that pink fox that Swift mentioned in the video? Yes, she is a red fox, too.  Technically, she is a “pink champagne” fox, and the result of humans intentionally cross breeding foxes with different colored fur until they get a desired fur color. Originally, this started over three centuries ago for the fur trade.  People desired exotic colored fur from familiar animals, and this seemed to be a simple, yet time consuming way to do this.  A general knowledge of genetics helped this industry as well.

Over the last three centuries, several dozen fur mutations were created, some of which are still around today and some that have since gone extinct (or rather, breeding that particular fur mutation has been discontinued). So the pink champagne fox, while somewhat rare, can still be found whereas the Radium Fox has been extinct since the 1940s after its inception in the mid-1930s.

In more recent years, now that the fur industry isn’t as popular as it used to be, breeders have turned to domestication. That’s right, some game farms and breeders offer foxes as pets.  I should point out that in several states, this isn’t legal and those that do allow it, you might be required to have a permit or license to own one and you could be subject to state inspections to ensure the animal is being well cared for, so make sure you read up on your state’s legal guidelines before google searching for pet foxes!  I should also point out that foxes aren’t the best pets in the world, but that’s a subject for a later post.

Anyway, for more information about fox fur phases and mutations, check out Living With Foxes’ page on the subject.  They have a ton of info and awesome photos.

Stay wild!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, birds, Carnivore, Channel Island Fox, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, environment, fox subspecies, foxes, gray fox, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, storrytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vuplines, wildlife, wildlife education

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!

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, Carnivore, coyotes, ecology, educational mascots, environment, fox subspecies, foxes, gray fox, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, red fox, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vuplines, wildlife, wildlife education

Vulpinology 101 Part 5 – The Gray Fox

gray fox

The Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

(Photo credit )

Gray foxes live mainly between the north eastern and the southern half of the United States, Mexico, Central America and the northernmost areas of South America. That said, there have been sightings as far north as Connecticut.  These foxes come in between seven and fourteen pounds, close to that of red foxes.

A unique feature of these foxes is their ability to climb trees. While red foxes have been known to hop about on low lying branches of trees, gray foxes can reach the higher limbs of the tree and even make their dens in hollow spaces, sometimes up to thirty feet off the ground.

Like many fox species, these foxes will mate between January and March, giving birth to a litter roughly 52 to 54 days later. The breeding pair are typically monogamous and both parents are heavily involved in raising their young.  As aforementioned, dens can be made in hollow trees but they can also be made in dense brush, under buildings, between rock crevices, or beneath tree stumps.

There are sixteen known subspecies of the gray fox, which can be found across the United States, Mexico, Central America and South America. Many of these have very small ranges, at times only in smaller sections of states/regions.

Again, like all fox species, the gray fox is an omnivore and eats anything from rodents, squirrels, rabbits, insects to various fruits and nuts. This fox can be preyed upon by larger animals, like bears, coyotes and wild cats.

Stay tuned for our next episode of Vulpinology 101!

Stay wild!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, biodiversity, Carnivore, ecology, educational mascots, environment, foxes, foxes tapping the earth's magnetic field, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, red fox, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vuplines, wildlife, wildlife education

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, 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!