Thursday, January 25, 2024

Unexpected Creatures During Island Fox Counting - Part 4

Welcome guest blogger Jessica Sanchez, wildlife veterinarian and FIF Board Member. She's explained how island foxes are captured annually in Part 1, shown how a fox's body condition is evaluated in Part 2, and demonstrated health procedures preformed on island foxes during an annual health check in Part 3. As she explains, she might be out capturing island foxes, but they aren't the only animals she encounters.

We also catch island spotted skunks, although this has become rarer in recent years.

You know you have caught a skunk even before you get to the trap because...

  1. of the smell
  2. they ball up all the grass and vegetation in the trap to make a cozy little nest for themselves

If you're lucky, they will still be asleep in this nest when you approach the trap the next morning. All of this gives you time to pause and carefully plan your approach to getting them out of the humane box trap. 

Skunks also get a microchip for identification and we take a tiny 2–3mm biopsy of the ear, with a special cartilage snip device, for genetic testing. Then they receive a thorough exam. (similar to island foxes) We try to handle the little skunks carefully so they don't spray us–this is for our benefit and theirs as it can take up to a couple of weeks for skunks to regenerate their spray and they need it to defend themselves. 

Currently, island spotted skunks are not vaccinated, though researchers are investigating options to potentially do so in the future.

Island spotted skunks aren't the only surprise that might be found in a box trap set out for island foxes. See what else Sanchez has found:

An island scrub-jay!

The final steps of a long day catching island foxes are to wash off any skunk spray and/or fleas, check yourself for ticks, enjoy a beautiful sunset, and get a good night's sleep before doing it again the next day! - Jessica Sanchez

Part 1 - capturing island foxes

Part 2 - Health Check: body condition

Part 3 - Health Check: veterinary procedures