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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Arctic Fox Has a Case of the Giggles

What does the fox say?  Apparently, this one laughs (not sure if it is normal for arctic foxes, but it is funny and cute to watch).  Of course, I a sure the animal has a bunch of other things he/she can say (like barking, howling, vixen screams, etc). 



Friday, November 18, 2016

Does the Seattle area get red foxes? This is a mystery worth investigating (updated)

(Entry updated, see near the bottom of the article for the updates).
Sorry it has been a while since I have posted last.  My day job work schedule has been picking up considerably in recent months and been less active as a result.  Anyways, last month I went on a train trip to Wisconsin and Illinois and since then I have become curious about red foxes.  I remember seeing one once back when I was a kid on a door county trip to Penninsula State park when I was little (probably 3rd or 4th grade if I have to guess).  And looking back on that, it makes me wonder: do red foxes exist in my back yard here in Snohomish, Washington?
Here is a life size model of a red fox at the Milwaukee Public Museum at Milwaukee Wisconsin.  If you visit Wisconsin, you just might encounter one of these magnificent creatures camping out in the woods there (like Penninsula State Park).  Now I wonder if Washington State (specifically the Seattle area) gets foxes?  Definitely an untapped niche (not a whole lot of infomation about them here in Washington).  
In my 23 years or so living in Washington, I have yet to see a fox in the wild, though in my neck of the woods, we seem to get coyotes instead (sometimes hear them howl at night, like last night).  However I have heard about the Cascade red fox, like the one seen in the video below about a cascade red fox at Mount Rainer.

There also seems to be foxes on San Juan Island too (random short video about a red fox sighting on San Juan island):
Now the question is: does the Puget Sound area (Seattle, Tacoma, Everett etc) get red foxes?  Here in my neck of the woods, it is rural and my back yard backs up to woods, so it seems like a possible place to see a fox (though it seems like you are more likely to see a coyote than a fox here in Snohomish).  I don't know for sure if they exist around here, but I might be interested in doing a field investigation sometime and see if we do get foxes around here.  I don't have a definitive answer to this question, but I do want to believe they exist around here.  If anyone has experience or stories about foxes here in western Washington or even around the Seattle area, feel free to share your expriences.  If I have a sighting or get more information about red foxes here in Washington, I will be sure to let you know (definitely an untapped niche for anyone looking for untapped niches online).  

By the way, both the Woodland Park Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo have Arctic Foxes.  See below:
I tried to get a picture of the arctic fox last time I was at the zoo, but it was undeveloped (it was also around the time my last windows phone was going bad too).  Will try to get a more clear photo of one next time I am there.

******Update******

I think I may have recently had my first sighting of a fox near Monroe Washington, possibly marking my first time encountering a fox since moving to Washington State 23 years ago.  I was driving towards my church from Monroe Washington (going the back roads) and as I was going up one of the back roads, I saw what may have been a cross fox.  As I was driving, on the right side of the road, I saw what looked like yellow eyes and whatever it was, it took a look at my car and ran towards someone's yard (happened in a wooded area).  At first I thought it was a cat, but it definitely looked bigger than an average cat, had what look like a reddish brown body and a busy looking tail and was pretty quick at running away too.  I couldn't make out the face either (would have made it easier to tell what I saw), but it looked like it had a black face.  There are 2 possibilities of what I saw: a large house cat or a cross fox (basically a red fox with black faces instead of a red and white face)
Image result for cross fox
Random picture I found showing what a cross fox looks like.  Baically a red fox with a dark looking face and redish brown fur (source: http://www.redbubble.com/people/martinsmart/works/8387151-cross-fox-in-the-arctic)

Now I am not 100% positive it was a fox (could have been a large house cat too), but it didn't quite look like a cat and it had a bushy looking tail (more like that of a fox), so my hunch is that it was probably a fox that I saw.  I wish I could have gotten a better look at the animal or even snap  a picture of it, but I was driving and it was night time (harder to see at night).  Also, I remember there were people behind me (the back roads here in Washington are notorious for aggressive drivers who love to ignore the speed limit and tailgate people), so I couldn't really stop or slow down to get a better look. I have also been digging around on information about foxes around here and found a few things on them:

1. 2 hotspots for fox sightings includes: Mount Rainer near the Paridise area and San Juan Island (aka Friday Harbor), especially in the American Camp vincinity.
Image result for san juan island red fox
Random picture of foxes on San Juan Island I found (source: http://www.sanjuansites.com/wildlife-in-the-san-juan-islands.html)

I haven't been to either place in a long time, but I definitely would be tempted to check both places out sometime and see if I can catch a glimpse, and possibly a picture of a fox.  Not sure when I will make those trips gain, but I probably am due to visiting both places again and will try to do so if I get the opportunity. Interestingly, one of my family friends is getting married at Roche Harbor in April and my family was invited to the wedding, so I might get an opportunity to visit San Juan Island then (though I am not sure if I will make it to American Camp or not on that trip, so a separate trip to Friday Harbor might be needed).  Also, I understand that my brother's wife is expecting to have her baby sometime in April, and if it happens on the same weekend as the wedding, that could disrupt my plans to attend the wedding (would have to stay behind for the baby instead).  However, I will definitely have to check out American Camp on San Juan Island sometime and see if I can get some pictures of the foxes there given the opportunity. Maybe even visit Mount Rainer too.  Will tentatively plan on visiting at least one of those 2 places sometime next year if I get the chance.

 
2. Red foxes come in 2 forms in Washington State: Cascade Red Fox and the Lowland Red Fox:
Image result for cascade red fox
Random picture I found of the cascade red foxes (source: http://marathi.wunderground.com/wximage/oneshotww/2303
There are supposedly at least 2 varieties of red foxes in Western Washington: the cascade red fox (you can find them in the mountainous areas of the state and it appears Mt Rainer can be a good place to see them) and they are the native kinds.  California and Oregon seem to get the Sierra Nevada Red fox (their version of the cascade red fox)  There is also a lowland variety of the red fox and is supposedly an introduced species (not sure when or how they were introduced, but they may have once been on fur farms but have since escaped or were released into the wild (I can't blame them for wanting to escape considering that animals raised on fur farms are basically under a death sentence and are eventually turned into fur coats).  I wouldn't know how to tell the 2 varieties apart, though if you are trekking into the cascade mountains (like near Snoqualime Pass on Interstate 90 or Mount Rainer) and see a fox, it is probably the cascade red fox.  Elsewhere (like Monroe or San Juan Island), it is probably the lowland variety.  Foxes also seem to come in multiple colors too, such as the classic red fox, silver fox, and cross foxes.

3. I found a range map for red foxes (see http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/maps/wa/mammals/WA_red_fox.html). Green and yellow seems to represent areas where they seem to have a presence.  Though the map was created in 1991, so the range can change over time.

4.   Northwest Trek apparently has some red foxes you can view.
Here is a random picture of the red fox at Northwest Trek.  Image source: http://www.travelthewholeworld.com/traveling-washington/north-west-trek/
 

Will have to go there sometime and try to get a picture of it (probably in the spring months given the extra time and money).  Same with the artic foxes at Point Defiance Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo (I think I tried to get a picture of the artic foxes last time I was at the zoo, but it was out of focus, so I will probably have to make another attempt sometime).

5. Cross Foxes and Silver Foxes seem to the most common versions of the red foxes too
Image result for cascade red fox
Here is another random picture of the cascade red fox.  Note that this comes in the cross fox variety (darker fur and black face).  Image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/103371753921200992/

Assuming what I saw was a fox, it seems like they often come in the form of the cross fox or silver foxes and are most active at night (probably explains why you almost never see them during the day around here).

6. There are also elusive creatures too, probably due to the presence of coyotes
Image result for washington state coyotes
Random picture of a coyote.  Coyotes are far more common in Washington State than foxes are in my opinion.  Image source:http://catdefender.blogspot.com/2006/10/coyotes-cheered-on-by-wildlife.html

You are more likely to see a coyote in the wild in my neck of the woods than a fox, though I have heard that fox populations tend to be more scarce in areas where coyotes are present (probably because coyotes kill foxes sometimes).  In my neck of the woods, we get coyotes (I have seen them and heard them howling from time to time, usually at night) and they do seem to be keeping the foxes at bay around here. 

7. Gray fox
Random picture of a gray fox.  Source: http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/delaware/state-mammal/gray-fox


Interestingly, towards the end of November, my dad and I were throwing away pumpkins into a compost pile near the woods and my dad claims he saw what may have looked like a gray fox retreating into the woods.  He saw a tail and what looked like and animal booking it into the woods behind my house.  Ironically, I didn't see it despite being with him at the time (he or my golden retriever probably spooked it as we were throwing out the pumpkins and the fox was gone before I could notice), but he thinks it may have been a gray fox.  I wish I could have seen it for myself, but I didn't, but, it is possible that we get gray foxes too.  I wouldn't know for sure, but I could look into it and see if gray foxes exist around here or not.  Was under the impression that they come in the form of red foxes, but I could be wrong.

8.  Friends seeing foxes?  Interstingly, my brother Justin claims he may have seen a red fox in the Lake Stevens area here in Washington (just northeast of Everett) early in the morning.  I also have some friends from church that claim that they have seen foxes around here too

9.  Valleys, Rural areas and Farmlands (like Snohomish Valley, Duvall area, Carnation, etc) are probably some good to look for them. There are also lots of forests and woodlands in Washington State (especially on the west side of the mountains, though eastern Washington has more of a high desert terrain).  Western Washington is full of valleys and rural areas, and I have a hunch that if you are looking for red foxes, you might start with those.  Interestingly, Duvall and Carnation both have wildlife viewing areas where you can look for animals like foxes  (though some of them require a discover pass).  Also, the area near La Conner in Skagit County can be a good place to look (flood plain and all).

I think I am going to make an educated guess that we probably do get foxes around here.  They are rare and probably elusive too, but they are definitely those types of animals (kind of like wolves and cougars) that most of the time you will probably not see, but you know are out there.  I will be sure to add to this post if I get more info.  Interestingly, I have heard that at various sporting goods stores, you can get special whistles that hunters use to draw out predators like foxes.  When I get the extra money, I should buy one sometime and test it out and see if anything responds (not that I would shoot a fox, don't even own a gun just fyi).  I would also be tempted to get some camera traps sometime (special cameras that take pictures of things that move by it, like animals in the back yard).  I might also be tempted to buy a drone someday and explore the woods behind my house with it sometime (though I understand drones are not cheap and I wouldn't know how to fly one).  . 

Have you ever seen a fox here in Washington State?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.  I would love to hear your stories.  Pictures and videos of foxes are welcome too if you have them.  Feel free to like and share this post.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on foxes.  I was more or less oblivious to them till recently (the trip to Wisconsin seems to have sparked my interest in them considering that foxes are quite abundant in Wisconsin), so I am just beginning to scratch the surface on them, but I have definitely learned quite a bit about them from the web, youtube, along with talking to friends and family about them.  If you have questions, I can try to answer questions to the best of my knowledge and ability, but I probably won't know all of the answers.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Washington's live mascot Dubs energizes Husky fans

Here is a video I found on YouTube featuring Dubs the Alaskan Malamute.  I didn't actually go to University of Washington, went to Northwest University instead (basically right across the highway 520 bridge in the Kirkland area from UW), but not only did my brother Brett (and his wife) go there, but I also had some former classmates from Jackson High School that went there.  I can't say I have ever been to a "husky" game, but I might consider going to one someday given the opportunity.  Interestingly while the UW football team are known as the Huskies, they have a Malamute pose as a "husky", though I suppose Malamutes could be viewed as larger versions of huskies (like Siberian huskies, but generally bigger).  Check it out:





Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An eagle, a fox and my cat all getting along fine on my porch

How would you like to wake up on some winter morning and see an eagle, red fox, and a few cats on your porch?  Thiat is what happens to this lady from Alaska.  The eagle and fox both seem rather bold being on the porch (around here in Washington, foxes and eagles are a lot more elusive).  I think we might get foxes here in Washington, but I have yet to see one in the wild.  In my neck of the woods, foxes usually come in the form of coyotes.