[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
September 21
1974 - COC's new Cougar Stadium opens for first game of football season; Harbor beats COC, 26-21 [story]

Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Jan 9, 2014

evelynevandersande_mugYou might have wondered about my absence from this column space for the last few weeks. I am sorry if you missed my column, but I broke my right wrist.

Being “very” right-handed, writing a column using two fingers of my left hand was not going to work, in spite of any good will on my part.

At least I broke it while hiking on the Canyon Trail at Placerita, so it was accomplished doing something I like, in a place that I love. It’s a good reminder that however smooth the trail is, it is always a good idea to look where you walk – especially on the down slope. A stone was in my way; I went flying and extended my hand to break my fall. If I had a walking stick, it would have been helpful, but of course it was hanging in my coat closet.

It’s also a good idea to hike with a partner, because with a broken right wrist, you cannot drive your car home. It is also difficult to blow your nose or brush your teeth, as I found out in the weeks afterward.

grayfox2Now that the cast is off and I can accomplish things again, I’m writing about the gray fox. This is an animal that is plentiful, not endangered – but we rarely see it. Why is that?

First, it is crepuscular, which means it comes out around sunset and sunrise, so you might not be on the trail at that time of day. It can also be nocturnal.

It is interesting to learn it can climb trees, so even if you hear some noise, you might not think about looking up, and you will miss it. It is the only animal in the dog family that can climb a tree. It climbs by grabbing the trunk with its forepaws and scrambling up with the long claws on its hind feet. Once it reaches the tree canopy, it jumps from branch to branch. It can also wait for prey sitting in the tree.

It comes down the tree by descending slowly backward the same way your cat would do it.

I find the term “gray fox” a little misleading because there is a strong reddish cast to its coat. What we call the “red fox” is more prevalent on the East Coast, and there is one easy characteristic that pinpoints the difference right away: The red fox has black stockings; the gray fox does not.

At one time, the gray fox was the most common fox in the East, and it can still be found there, but the red fox has taken better advantage of the human development of the land where agricultural areas are now prevalent. The gray fox can be found from Southern Canada to the northern part of South America (Venezuela and Columbia). It is not found in the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains or eastern Central America.

You might have seen the smaller Channel Islands fox (Urocyon littoralis) on the islands off of Ventura. It is assumed a gray fox reached one of the Islands a long time ago and the breed took a different evolutionary path in order to survive the harsher living conditions on the islands. All the same, both are members of the genus Urocyon, which is the most primitive of the living canids.

grayfox1They appeared 3.6 million years ago. Other animals around at the time were the giant sloth, the elephant-like Cuvieronius, a large-headed llama and early small horses – all of which have disappeared. But the little gray fox is still around and doing very well, thank you. Scientists found they lived in the same time period when they discovered fossil evidence on a ranch site on Graham County, Ariz. They must have had a joyful day when they made this discovery!

Even more extraordinary, the gray fox migrated to the north of the United States in association with the Medieval Climate Anomaly warming trend. Around A.D. 1000, the Vikings settled in Greenland, but the warming trend was 200 to 300 years later – so how did the gray fox come here? Did it come from Russia to Alaska? Your guess is as good as mine, but it is intriguing.

Genetically, after chromosome testing, it was shown the gray fox is also associated with two ancient lines: the East Asian raccoon dog and the African bat-eared fox. When I read things like, this my imagination goes wild, and I try to imagine those trips and connections in faraway lands a long time ago.

I will stop dreaming about all of the unanswered questions and cover a few things we know for sure about the gray fox.

Male and female look the same, but the female is somewhat smaller. A black stripe runs along the bushy tail, which ends in a black tip. They have a black muzzle and look like a small dog with short and powerful legs. Adults weight 7 to 11 pounds. They are from the dog family and mark their territory with their feces and urine. You might never see a gray fox on the trail, and you might rarely see a coyote, but you can be sure you will see plenty of coyote scat. Fox feces are smaller and sometimes glossy, depending on the last food they have eaten. They are less plentiful than the coyote scat, but once you have identified it, you will be able to recognize it again. Google “gray fox scat.” You can look at photos that will do a better job than my best description. Often you will not see the animals, but being able to identify scat is an art that can tell you what came by when you were not watching.

grayfox3Females reach maturity when they are 1 year old. Breeding season starts in February until March. The father will take care of the female and bring back food to feed his family while the female stays with the pups. They have from one to seven pups, and when the pups are 3 months old, they can start hunting with the parents.

The family lives together until the fall. Then the kits are sexually mature and become independent of the parents.

Gray foxes are solitary during the winter. Their life span is 6 years in the wild and 12 years in captivity.

They are omnivores, so they can eat many different foods: berries, nuts, insects and rabbits, and they are useful to the environment because they eat many rodents. The gray fox will bury its food if he has a surplus and will mark the spot with urine so he can find it later on.

In area of dry chaparral like Zion National Park in Utah, the gray fox survives just fine by being insectivorous and herbivorous, so it can be resourceful. Even in different climates, fruits and berries are important parts of the diet.

The main predator of the adult gray fox, I am sorry to say, is man. But the pups must hide from hawks, eagles, owls, bobcats, coyotes and dogs.

A gray fox likes to sun itself up in a tree and sleep in a hollow tree or an abandoned burrow. May be you have walked past his hidden place without knowing it, but I am happy to report that they are doing fine. Their population remains constant and is not threatened. I wish them long and happy lives.


Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 27 years. She lives in Newhall.



Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


  1. Melissa says:

    I really did miss you, glad you are recovering from the broken wrist.

    We live in a rural area and the gray fox is a sometimes visitor.

    A large and very old walnut tree a few feet outside a window of our house has limbs close to the ground. To our very great surprise, as we watched a fox last year he had no trouble getting right up into the tree for a nap. Glad he hangs around, there is more than enough for him to eat, though he must catch it for himself.

  2. Evelyne Vandersande says:

    Thanks Melissa, that is so neat to read. I wanted to ask you at time time of the day you saw that. I am trying to find out if the grey fox is only crepuscular in area where people would be a threat. What is your experience ?Thank you so much for sharing this, that was quite a sight, I am sure.

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Friday, Sep 14, 2018
Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage have different benefits and costs that you should consider based on your personal needs. Medicare open enrollment season runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, and it’s a good idea to know how the two types of Medicare work before you select one.
Wednesday, Sep 5, 2018
In his September column, Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin outlines the city's 'Heads up' safety campaign against distracted driving and walking.
Tuesday, Sep 4, 2018
Nestled between the sports fields and hiking trails at Central Park is a grove of tree stumps.
Wednesday, Aug 22, 2018
If we can secure U.S. Rep. Steve Knight’s leadership, we have the chance to improve recreational opportunities and protect open space in the mountains that flank and define the Santa Clarita Valley.
Thursday, Aug 2, 2018
City Manager Ken Striplin notes that a lot has changed in Santa Clarita since the 1970s, except the SCV Sheriff's Station, which opened 46 years ago and will finally be replaced by a brand-new 46,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, centrally located Sheriff’s Station on Golden Valley Road.
Wednesday, Aug 1, 2018
​There are many things that make our City the unique and special place it is.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
The contemporary art journal X-TRA and the Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles will present "The Un-Private Collection Workshop: Edgar Arceneaux" by the CalArts grad on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Sept. 22: Edgar Arceneaux Holds Financial Workshop at The Broad
The Master's University men's basketball team, which finished 29-3 last season, has released its 2018-19 schedule.
TMU Men’s Basketball Team Releases 2018-19 Schedule
The Los Angeles County Fire Department has launched an updated "Ready! Set! Go!" program to assist residents living in wildfire-prone areas.
Get Your Personal Ready! Set! Go! Wildfire Action Plan
The William S. Hart Union School District Board of Governors will recognize the district's 2018-2019 Teachers of the Year at the board's next regular meeting Wednesday night, Sept. 26.
Sept. 26: Hart Board to Honor District Teachers of the Year
The next regular meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is set for Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Sept. 26: Hart District Governing Board Regular Meeting
The intersection of Newhall Ranch Road and McBean Parkway will be closed Tuesday, Sept. 25, from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., for the Federal Overlay Project being completed by the city of Santa Clarita to resurface the road.
Newhall Ranch Road, McBean Parkway Intersection to Close Tuesday Night
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has set an open house meeting in Agua Dulce on Saturday, Sept. 29 to gather public comment on the Palmdale to Burbank project section, which would closely follow Highway 14 through the Santa Clarita Valley.
Sept. 29: Open House on Proposed High-Speed Rail Route Thru SCV
Among the bills recently passed by California lawmakers and signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown was Assembly Bill 3212, designed to strengthen the state's consumer protections for service members and military families, including California National Guard soldiers and airmen.
Brown Signs Bill Boosting Consumer Protection for Service Members
TMU All-American senior Benji Tembo scored in overtime, handing The Master's a 3-2 victory over the visiting Flames on Reese Field on Thursday.
Tembo, Mangan Lead Mustangs to OT Victory
College of the Canyons has opened registration for a series of free, short-term career skills classes this fall in the afternoons, evenings and online.
COC Offers No-Cost Skills Classes Afternoons, Evenings, Online
A roundtable discussion about a proposed Los Angeles County fee-based business registration program is set for the Stevenson Ranch Library on Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: Roundtable on County’s Proposed Business Registration Fee
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Sept. 25, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Sept. 25: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
The city of Santa Clarita has received the District Transparency Certificate of Excellence by the Special District Leadership Foundation in recognition of its outstanding efforts to promote transparency and good governance.
City Awarded Transparency Certificate of Excellence
College of the Canyons was ranked among the top 50 best U.S. colleges for adult learners in Washington Monthly magazine’s ranking of “Best Two-Year Colleges for Adult Learners.”
COC is No. 1 U.S. College for Adult Learners in SoCal
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday inked legislation aimed at breaking society’s “infatuation” with plastic straws, beginning in 2019.
California First State to Restrict Plastic Straws in Restaurants
A teenage female driver escaped serious injury when her van tipped over onto its left side on Dorothy Street in Santa Clarita Friday morning, according to authorities.
Teen Driver Escapes Serious Injury in Solo Tip-Over Crash
1974 - COC's new Cougar Stadium opens for first game of football season; Harbor beats COC, 26-21 [story]
The Old Town Newhall Association’s Chalk Art Festival is coming this weekend with dozens of local artists and organizations ready to share their works with the Santa Clarita Valley community.
Organizations, Local Artists Taking Part in This Weekend’s Chalk Art Festival
County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) encourages all pet owners to be prepared before disaster strikes.
Animal Care & Control Encourages Pet Owners to Prepare for Disasters
The contemporary art journal X-TRA and the Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles present, "The Un-Private Collection Workshop: Edgar Arceneaux" on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Sept. 22: CalArts Alum Presents Financial Workshop at Broad Museum
NORTHRIDGE - Senior defender Lindsay Kutscher has been selected as one of 30 women's soccer candidates for the Senior CLASS award.
CSUN’s Lindsay Kutscher Candidate for Senior CLASS Award
The Center for Digital Government (CDG) has presented the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation with one of its Best of California Awards, which recognize state and local government organizations for innovative technology initiatives.
County Parks & Recreation Recognized with Best of California Award
The city of Santa Clarita and Caltrans engineers have partnered with Caltrans to provide traffic enhancements.
City Implements Traffic Improvements at Sierra Highway, Golden Valley Road
Continuing the momentum developed from such programs as iTEENS during the school year and the Teen Summit hosted earlier in 2018, the city of Santa Clarita will host a teen leadership development training on Wednesday, Sept. 26, from 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., at the Newhall Community Center (22421 Market Street).
Sept. 26: ‘I Can Achieve Now!’ Teen Leadership Workshop
NORTHRIDGE - CSUN's Michael Merchan has been named Co-Big West Athlete of the Week for men's cross country. Merchan is the first Matador men's cross country student-athlete to earn the award since it was established in 2001. Merchan shares the honor with Nick Randazzo of UCSB.
CSUN’s Merchan Nabs Big West Co-Athlete of the Week
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla stopped by Golden Valley High School Wednesday morning to encourage students to register to vote.
CA Secretary of State Alex Padilla Encourages Local Students to Vote
SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Air Resources Board, and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit Tuesday against the Trump Administration for its unlawful attempt to dismantle critical environmental waste protections.
Becerra Sues Trump Admin for Unlawful Attempt to Dismantle Waste Protections
Kaiser Permanente will open all seasonal flu clinics throughout Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 22, and urges all members to get their no-cost vaccinations early.
Sept. 22: Kaiser Permanente Opens Seasonal Flu Clinics Throughout So Cal
On Tuesday, The Home Depot Foundation increased its financial support to $3 million for disaster relief efforts and communities impacted by recent disasters, including Hurricane Florence, Olivia, the California wildfires and flooding in the Midwest.
Home Depot Foundation Increases Financial Support for Disaster Relief Efforts
Los Angeles County took a major step towards fostering a vibrant business ecosystem to help the local bioscience industry reach its full potential as a job-creating economic engine that advances breakthroughs in global health.
County Committed to Becoming Bioscience Global Leader
SACRAMENTO – Every day, thousands of parents and caregivers in California travel with children in their vehicle.
Sept. 23-29: Child Passenger Safety Week
The 3rd annual Gran Fondo Santa Clarita will be held Saturday, Sept. 29, beginning at 8:00 a.m.
Sept. 29: Gran Fondo Santa Clarita
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce invites you to their 34th annual Oktoberfest Golf Tournament, sponsored by Chiquita Canyon. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.
Oct. 22: SCV Chamber’s 34th Annual Oktoberfest Golf Tournament
1954 - C-46 cargo plane crashes at Saugus Drunk Farm; Civil Air Patrol chaplains parachute to safety [story]
Filmmaker Magazine recently unveiled its annual roundup of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film, and CalArtians Hannah Peterson (Film/Video MFA 2018) and Richard Van (Film/Video MFA 2018) were included on the 2018 list.
CalArtians Among Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Indie Film