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Posts Tagged ‘foxes’

The blue fox

Lane got it right.

It’s a blue arctic fox in its summer pelt.

When the blue phase foxes transition from winter to summer pelts, they look like bizarre fairy tail creatures. I was trying to find a photo of a particularly moth-eaten-looking one, but I couldn’t.

The blue phase foxes vary in their color and markings, and I’m going to do a post on them at some point.

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The puppies in the photo above were dumped in a plastic carrier bag at the RSPCA’s Harnsworth Animal Hospital in North London last month.

The RSPCA vets determined that they were Staffordshire bull terriers and began rearing them as any abandoned newborn whelps.

However, don’t you think these puppies look a little strange?

The coat is a bit long. The muzzles are a bit pointed. I bet all of them have white-tipped tails.

Now unusual for Staffie crosses, I suppose, but the litter looked awfully uniform to be crossbreeds.

Well, as the weeks have progressed, the real identity of these “Staffies” has become apparent.

They aren’t bull-and-terriers after all.

They aren’t any breed of domestic dog at all.

They aren’t even members of the genus Canis.

It turns out that they are red fox kits!

Not very much like young staffies, are they?

The young foxes have been turned over to Fox Project Charity, where they are doing fine.

I don’t know if they can be released or not.

But it’s not the first time fox kits have been mistaken for domestic dogs. Last year I reported on a Chinese man whose Pomeranian was actually an Arctic fox.

And I should point out that is very hard to determine the exact identity of any neonatal puppies. I recently read about a golden retriever breeder who was raising field line dogs in England. She took the dogs to the vet to have their dewclaws removed, but the vet thought the puppies were cockers. So he docked them, too. After all, most goldens in Britain aren’t of that rich color, but it is common among English cockers.

So yes, it is easy to make these mistakes.

But at least no one chopped their tails off!

***

Please note that the British convention is to call juvenile foxes “cubs.”

As a North American, I cannot bring myself to use such nomenclature.

If it is not a big cat or a bear, it can’t have cubs.

Wolves have puppies.

Foxes have kits.

So do all mustelids, including otters and badgers.

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The Fox raids the hen house

Source.

In my part of the world, this action is very unlikely to happen during the day, and the fox is but one possible culprit. It’s actually far more likely that a raccoon did it.

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As regular readers of this blog know, I found Timothy Treadwell’s relationship with foxes far more interesting than his relationship with bears. (Here he is with his beloved “Timmy.”)

If he’d only stayed with foxes, he’d probably be alive today, and we’d call him the “Red Fox Man.”

The real reason why I find his intimate relationship with these foxes fascinating is quite simple:

I think we can glean some insights into dog domestication from his relationship with his fox friends.

Now, I do disagree with Mr. Treadwell on the merits of fox hunting and trapping. If foxes become too densely populated, they will succumb to disease or mange and will die horrific deaths. It is better to have a controlled cull of foxes to prevent these diseases from causing a lot of suffering.

However, these foxes in Katmai National Park have never been hunted or persecuted. They have no reason to fear people. They not only scavenge and beg for food from people. Some of them, like “Timmy,” became extremely tame and even a bit bonded to people.

I think it is very likely that before we began our intense and often bizarrely creative persecution of wolves that they were rather like these foxes. They were curious and bold animals that were opportunists that would approach people without any fear. These animals were probably easily imprinted as puppies, and they were probably kept as pets by hunter-gatherers.

We know that most hunter-gatherers today keep all sorts of interesting pets, and it is very likely that wolves were kept as pets by these ancient hunter-gatherers. How long ago this happened is still up for debate– anywhere from 14,000 years ago to 135,000 years ago.

Modern wolves are generally very hard to tame, even if bottle-reared from any early age. They don’t typically make good pets, but it is very possible that this nervousness and reactivity that so marks this species is the result of a few centuries of intense persecution from our species.

Another clip.

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As regular readers of this blog know, I found Timothy Treadwell’s relationship with foxes far more interesting than his relationship with bears. (Here he is with his beloved “Timmy.”)

If he’d only stayed with foxes, he’d probably be alive today, and we’d call him the “Red Fox Man.”

The real reason why I find his intimate relationship with these foxes fascinating is quite simple:

I think we can glean some insights into dog domestication from his relationship with his fox friends.

Now, I do disagree with Mr. Treadwell on the merits of fox hunting and trapping. If foxes become too densely populated, they will succumb to disease or mange and will die horrific deaths. It is better to have a controlled cull of foxes to prevent these diseases from causing a lot of suffering.

However, these foxes in Katmai National Park have never been hunted or persecuted. They have no reason to fear people. They not only scavenge and beg for food from people. Some of them, like “Timmy,” can become extremely tame and a bit bonded to people.

I think it is very likely that before we began our intense and often bizarrely creative persecution of wolves, they were rather like these foxes. They were curious and bold animals that were opportunists that would approach people without any fear. These animals were probably easily imprinted as puppies, and they were probably kept as pets by hunter-gatherers.

We know that most hunter-gatherers today keep all sorts of interesting pets, and it is very likely that wolves were kept as pets by these ancient hunter-gatherers.

How long ago this happened is still up for debate– anywhere from 14,000 years ago to 135,000 years ago.

Modern wolves are generally very hard to tame, even if bottle-reared from any early age. They don’t typically make good pets, but it is very possible that this nervousness and reactivity that so marks this species is the result of a few centuries of intense persecution from our species.

Another clip.

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Meet the Foxes

Boy, this is a good documentary:

Source

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Source.

I’ve never understood why so many people think any species of dog without hair is a chupacabras (and that’s how it is spelled, with an “s” a the end.) I suppose it’s good for ratings.

But I think it helps ensure that people are just a little bit dumber when it comes to the native creatures of this continent.

On another video, I explained that these animals were not coyote/hyena crosses. Such animals don’t exist. In fact, a coyote/hyena cross is about as likely as a cat/golden retriever cross.  Hyenas are Feliform carnivores, which means they are closely related to cats, mongooses, civets, and all the animals that were once classified with mongooses and civets. Dogs are Caniform carnivores. They are more closely related to bears, raccoons, skunks and stink badgers, weasels (all the Mustelids),  the red panda (which is classified in its own family), and the Pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses).

You may have intergeneric hybrids (like the Wholphin and cama), but you will never have inter-family hybrids. It’s not going to happen.

Now,  I do have some questions about these hairless foxes and coyotes.

I suspect that most of these have mange.

However, it’s also possible that because these animals live in tropical and subtropical conditions at realtively high densities, they have developed a hairless or balding adaptation as a way of controlling the ectoparasites that infect them. The hairless dogs of Latin America are thought to have developed hairlessness as a way of controlling these parasites.

Now, I don’t think that if this were the case that the coyotes got those genes through hybridization. The genes that cause hairlessness in Latin American hairless dogs also cause weak tooth roots. A coyote would be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to feeding itself. However, there are street dogs in Mexico that crossed with coyotes and gave them this gene. No one has tested them for the hairless gene, but at least one of these animals was part or fully domestic dog.

However, I think it’s much more likely that they are nothing more than some species of known canid with mange.

But calling them chupacabras is good for ratings and getting everyone excited.

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