Friday, January 13, 2012

An Island Fox Den

courtesy of Will Campbell

Island foxes are different from their mainland ancestors the gray fox in many ways. One of those differences is that island foxes do not dig dens. Instead they seem to look for locations that are already somewhat protective. Right now, island foxes like Tani and Tiptu are searching for a den site that is just right. (Follow the adventures of Tani and Tiptu on Twitter, in the black box at the right, and on facebook).

They might chose a den location between rocks on a hillside, under dense shrubs or a combination of the two. Because island foxes are so small, usually between 3-6 lbs., even a space under a fallen tree can make a comfortable den.

When an island fox pair comes together between December and January, they are thinking about having a family. Island fox pups born in the spring will be blind and helpless. A successful den must offer warmth and protection for the pups first 6 weeks of life. (Tani was born almost a year ago.)

Young island fox pairs, like Tani and Tiptu, do not have the experience of their parents.  They will have to learn by trial and error which locations will provide a warm, dry den site with access to nearby food.