By Dan Tortorice
Friends of Lake View Hill Park
We have a whole lot of canids here on the Northside. The vast majority are family pet dogs enjoying our big backyards.
The term “canid” refers to any mammal of the dog family. This includes wolves, foxes, coyotes, jackals and even the dingoes of Australia. The prominent wild canid in our area is the red fox. Its huge range includes the entire subarctic northern hemisphere.
While we certainly have red foxes in Lake View Hill Park, you are much more likely to see this solitary nocturnal hunter in your own yard. If your rabbit population has dropped drastically in recent months or some of your chickens have disappeared, you probably have a den nearby as foxes seem perfectly happy to live alongside humans in open urban settings.
In my own yard, just a block from Lake View Hill Park, I witnessed a squirrel come down from a tree to find himself nose-to-nose with a fox. His incredible escape act began with a twisting backflip landing at full speed. After being cornered several times, he barely outran the fox down a retaining wall and escaped under a chain link fence.
But foxes don’t have to live the difficult life of a total carnivore. They also eat fruits and vegetables in addition to frogs and worms. Even the seeds from a bird feeder will keep them going. They manage to live about three to five years with an average lifespan of about 18 months. The “dog” (male fox) and “vixen” (female fox) will mate in the winter to give birth to 2–12 “kits” in spring.
If you’re able to see a red fox, remember its fur may not always be red. They vary a bit in color, but the white-tipped tail is a sure sign.
A great way to learn more about wild canids is to visit the website of UW’s Urban Canid Project (uwurbancanidproject.weebly.com/). This research group began in 2014 when a fox den was found under a campus building. Each year since, they have been able to trap some foxes and coyotes and attach radio collars to track their movements.
Interested citizens can view maps showing where the animals have been sited or create a free account to upload a photo. Better yet, you can get a free phone app from iNaturalist to send them your photos along with exact location settings.
Our fox neighbors are protecting flower and vegetable gardens. But keep those chickens fenced in.
Visit us at friendsoflakeviewhill.org or on Facebook at Friends-of-Lake-View-Hill-Park.