The education team’s busy schedule often takes them out on field trips and lessons, but one member of the staff always sticks close to the office: the gray fox! This shy creature has made its home under the education building, and every few weeks, a hushed call ripples through the office: “Look out the window! The fox is back!” Quickly, quietly, we all rush to catch sight of the adaptable gray fox.
Gray foxes, Urocyon cinereoargenteus, are one of the many animals forced to adapt to the rapid changes in the Bay Area. With urbanization shrinking or isolating their habitat, the foxes continue to learn how to live in a changing world. The medium sized mammal’s habitat spans across both North and South America, and while it used to be the most common fox in the eastern United States, the red fox has adapted more easily to urbanization. Gray foxes prefer to live near deciduous forest, or in woodlands where they can find plenty of prey to hunt. They often live near bodies of water and can even swim a little, often driving their prey into the water.
The solitary grey foxes are mostly nocturnal, and hunt at night, before spending its days in a den, a tree hollow, or even under an education building. In addition to eating small rodents, rabbits, birds, and insects, the gray fox is an omnivorous and will eat a variety of berries, nuts, and fruit that it can find, with its diet varying dependant on the season.
The grey fox has the unique ability to climb trees, scrambling up the trunks and into higher branches to escape predators, and they can even jump branch to branch if necessary. This remarkable ability is only shared by one other member of the dog family, the Asian raccoon dog. The fox can be challenging to see, since it mostly comes out at night and often will be hiding or sleeping during the daylight hours in a den , burrow, or tree. No wonder it is such an exciting event to see the gray fox running by our office.
Next time you come down to The Watershed Project’s Richmond office, pause for a moment, listen for a rustling in the bushes, and look around the education building. You might be lucky, and catch sight of this tree climbing fox.