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

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Partly sunny
Partly sunny
66°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 19
1945 - Acton Hotel, est. 1890, burns down; arson is suspected [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.

2 Comments

  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...
RECENT COMMENTARY
Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017
It was 10 years ago this fall semester that we opened the Canyon Country Campus on Sierra Highway. We are celebrating a decade of academic excellence and community impact. What a difference a decade makes.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
The Trump budget proposes decreasing funding to the Department of the Interior by $1.5 billion. Trump is calling for more drilling in national parks and monuments. He plans to open BLM land to drilling and fracking.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
We are quickly approaching the culmination of the year-long celebration of our city’s 30th anniversary. It is truly a time to celebrate all the hard work, dedication, perseverance and passion that took our City from being a tiny portion of Los Angeles County to the thriving third largest city in the county.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
This month marks an exciting milestone for the premier arts and entertainment district in Santa Clarita.
Friday, Sep 29, 2017
Kaepernick has never spoken of personally experiencing any negative interactions with the police. Appearances are he had a pretty nice life provided by people with white skin while living in a country that presented him with obvious, mind-boggling opportunities.
Thursday, Sep 28, 2017
Despite its close proximity to the city of Barstow, Rainbow Basin remains virtually undiscovered. It is well worth a visit. Visitors to the area can find scenic opportunities for hiking, rock scrambling, camping, photography, sightseeing and horseback riding.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
The College of the Canyons Athletics department is inviting all players, coaches and cheerleaders associated with a Santa Clarita Valley youth sports league or cheer organization to attend Saturday's Cougar football game free of charge.
Oct. 21: SCV Youth Teams Invited to Free COC Football Game
College of the Canyons freshmen Joanna Roecker and Cassandra Lee both turned in scores of 79 to lead the Cougars to a second place team finish at the Western State Conference (WSC) event hosted by Glendale College at Brookside Golf Course on Monday.
COC Falls Short at WSC Glendale
Beginning Monday, October 23, 2017, the city of Santa Clarita will increase the frequency of street sweeping throughout all areas of the City.
Oct. 23: City Begins Increased Street Sweeping Frequency
In a battle for Western State Conference, East Division supremacy, it was College of the Canyons that came out on top Tuesday night, as the Cougars scored two second half goals to secure a 2-0 win against visiting Antelope Valley College. Justine Hoeft and Jennifer Roney collected goals for the Cougars (11-2, 2-0).
COC Secures Win Against AVC With Two Second-Half Goals
The upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Buckweed Fires offers Santa Clarita residents a reminder of the ever-present fire danger in Los Angeles County, as blazes ravage the northern half of the state, as well.
County, City Officials Reflect on 10-Year Anniversary of Buckweed Fires
Dreamation Craft Guild will be hosting a boutique at Canyon High School, Nov. 18, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to benefit the family of John Phippen, the Santa Clarita resident who was killed in the Las Vegas shooting.
Nov. 18: Holiday Marketplace Benefiting John Phippen Family
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – To ensure drivers, passengers, and children are properly restrained while traveling California’s roadways, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has partnered with the California Office of Traffic Safety on a new traffic safety campaign entitled, “California Restraint Safety Education And Training” (CARSEAT).
CHP’s New Traffic Safety Campaign Focuses on Saving Lives, Reducing Injuries
1945 - Acton Hotel, est. 1890, burns down; arson is suspected [story]
The fall 2017 Star Party at College of the Canyons' Canyon Country campus on Friday, Oct. 27 will focus on the pathways to space exploration that exist for star-gazers who are captivated by the many mysteries of the universe.
Oct. 27: Star Party at COC Canyon Country Campus
Determined to transform the deeply troubled Los Angeles County Probation Department, the Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to consider an independent entity that would provide guidance, oversight and accountability.
Supes Consider Entity for Probation Reform Guidance, Oversight, Accountability
Alexia Cina of Canyon Country was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of a mother of six children in a head-on crash on Golden Valley Road on October 6.
Woman Charged with Manslaughter, DUI in Death of Mother of 6
The 22nd annual Santa Clarita Marathon is scheduled for Sunday, November 5, 2017, following the Santa Clarita Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday.
Nov. 4-5: 22nd Annual Santa Clarita Marathon Events
The Los Angeles Dodgers jumped to a 3-0 lead in the best of seven series following Tuesday night’s 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field.
Dodgers Out to Sweep Cubs in NLCS Game 4
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's 2017 Medal of Valor Awards were held Tuesday in Los Angeles, and SCV Sheriff's Station Deputy Dmitry Barkon was recognized for his bravery and heroic actions.
SCV Sheriff’s Deputy Dmitry Barkon Earns Medal of Valor
Now is the time for all good college-bound high school seniors to join the 'Race to Submit' applications for FAFSA and CADAA grants to help cover college expenses.
High School Seniors: ‘Race to Submit’ is on for 2018 College Financial Aid
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies interrupted a smash-and-grab burglary on The Old Road early Friday morning, arresting one suspect and seeking two alleged accomplices still at large.
SCV Deputies Catch Window-Smash Burglars in the Act
Pukúu Cultural Community Services, founded in 1971 by members of the local Fernandeno-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, will host its 13th Annual scholarship gala fundraiser, "Night with the Stars," in Sunland on Saturday, November 4 starting at 6 p.m.
Nov. 4: Local Tribe Honors 3, Celebrates Native American Heritage Month
California's Attorney General today filed a motion to compel the federal government to follow the law and pay the subsidies that millions of Americans rely on to lower the out-of-pocket costs in their insurance plans.
California AG Fights to Keep ACA Cost-Sharing Subsidies
Santa Clarita business owners are encouraged to take the city's broadband feasibility study online survey and participate in the next phase of the study -- in-person focus groups scheduled for October 30.
Oct. 30: Focus Groups in Next Phase of City Broadband Study
The $17 billion "California WaterFix" project reached a tipping point Tuesday after a Silicon Valley water district voted against Gov. Jerry Brown’s approach in favor of a less expensive, scaled-back version.
Silicon Valley Water Board Wants Delta Tunnels Downsized
Maryama, a band led by CalArts alumna Maryama Mirbagheri (Music MFA 17), was recently nominated for a 2017 Hollywood Music in Media Award in the World Music category.
Maryama Nominated for Hollywood Music in Media Award
The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, in response to President Trump’s recent decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, has declared Oct. 16-20 "DACA Advocacy Week."
California Community Colleges Ramp Up DACA Advocacy
COC and the Hart District will host the 2017 College & Career Fair in the college’s Honor Grove on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 9 a.m. to noon.
Oct. 21: 2017 College and Career Fair at COC
The College of the Canyons Art Gallery will showcase the work of Los Angeles-based painter Sheldon Figoten in a one-person exhibition of new paintings, “Light Fields,” opening Saturday, Oct. 28.
Oct. 28: Sheldon Figoten ‘Light Fields’ at COC Art Gallery
The Santa Clarita Artists Association held its 28th Annual Art Classic fine arts competition at William S. Hart Park's Hart Hall in Newhall on October 14.
Santa Clarita Artists Association Names Winners in 2017 Art Classic
Here is the Castaic-Val Verde Crime Information & Public Safety report from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station for September 25 through October 1.
Crime Blotter: Arson, Burglary, Theft in Castaic-Val Verde
California and New Mexico launched a fresh challenge Tuesday against the Trump administration’s repeal of higher royalty payments to states for oil, gas and coal leases on public lands.
California, New Mexico Challenge White House Favors to Oil, Gas, Coal
Here is the Stevenson Ranch (Zone 3) Crime Information & Public Safety report from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station for the week of October 2 to October 8.
Crime Blotter: Burglary, Petty Theft in Stevenson Ranch
Here is the Canyon Country East (Zone 8) Crime Information and Public Safety report from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station for September 24 through October 8, 2017.
Crime Blotter: Vehicle Theft, Burglary in Canyon Country East
1876 - Southern Pacific begins subdividing town of Newhall (original location at Bouquet Junction) [story]
CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), the professional producing arm of California Institute of the Arts, opens Fantômas: Revenge of the Image at Wuzhen Theatre Festival in Wuzhen, China, on Oct. 19.
Oct. 19: CalArts’ Fantomas: Revenge of the Image Premieres in China
The CSUN women's golf team fired rounds of 306-309 and is in fourth place, just eight shots off the pace at the Pat Lesser Harbottle Seattle University Invitational at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club in Tacoma, WA.
CSUN Just Eight Shots Off Pace At Washington Invitational
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, Recreation, Community Services, Arts and Open Spaces Director Rick Gould announces retirement. Plus, the Board of Supervisors approve mental health care improvements. Check out these stories and more tonight on SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Tuesday, October 17, 2017
The Advanced Technology Presentation about "Careers in the Making...Design, Engineering, Fabrication and More..." in celebration of National Manufacturing Day was a huge success.
SCV Students Gain Knowledge, Advice at National Manufacturing Day
A local company is expanding its footprint in the Santa Clarita Valley to accommodate business growth and another is relocating a division of its company from Sylmar.
Accurate Freight Systems Expands, Leases Space at IAC Commerce Center