New Orphaned Foxes April 5, 2018

Meet The Canid Project’s newest orphaned Red Fox kits.

On April 5, 2018 we received 1 female and 2 males approximately 5.5 To 6 weeks old.

How You Can Help! 

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We’ve just ordered food (frozen chicks, frozen mice), supplements, meds and visited Tractor Supply to stock up on shavings and dewormer. We are planning a larger enclosure for this year as well!

If you’d like to contribute by donating monetarily or through our Amazon Wish List we’d really appreciate it! We can not do what we do without the generous support of you all!  See our CONTRIBUTE PAGE

 The Canid Project is a 501c3 Nonprofit snd all donations are tax deductible too!

The Release

In May when Melissa Collins, my LDWF permit officer, came out to approve my first enclosure, she was also able to explore the property.  Melissa is a biologist who has a deep understanding of ecosystems and wildlife, so I looked to her to help me decide on a release site for 2017.  As we walked the property, we both started to feel that this would be a perfect place. 

The immediate area consists of large tracts of forested land, agricultural fields, and rural homes on at least 3 acres of land each.  Many of these homesteads are left relatively wild and are lush with wooded areas and ponds.  Three bayous surround this area and are part of the a 10,000 + acre sub-basin that is an ancient backwater swamp of the Mississippi River. This sub-basin is part of a larger 20,000-acre basin.  The property that holds the fox enclosures backs up directly to this 30,000+ acres of diverse forested wetland ecosystem of bottomland hardwood and cypress-tupelo forests, and is peppered with agricultural and rural farmland on the outskirts.


 Here is a map of the area, with an overlay showing some of the the bayou system, which provides a great dispersal corridor.

Here is a map of the area, with an overlay showing some of the the bayou system, which provides a great dispersal corridor.

 A satellite image of the area showing how much green space is available, and some of teh agricultural land can be seen as well.  I pointed out the release site in red and the power lines tracts which provide yet another travel corridor.  

A satellite image of the area showing how much green space is available, and some of teh agricultural land can be seen as well.  I pointed out the release site in red and the power lines tracts which provide yet another travel corridor.  


In the immediate area, Red Fox, Gray Fox, Coyote, Striped Skunk, Raccoon, Opossum, White-tailed Deer, Bobcat, Swamp Rabbit, Eastern Woodrat, mice, various hawks, and many species of snakes occur naturally.  Because Red Foxes are already found in the area, as is their preferred prey (especially rats and mice, and including even small snakes for you ophidiophobes), and because the mosaic of habitats, and the corridors of bayous and powerline tracts that lead to the sub-basin, basin, and the Mississippi River, we concluded that this was a good spot to release the five kits.  Yes, there are houses in the area, but they are on large tracks of land, and vehicle traffic is light.  And to be honest, it's incredibly hard to find anything devoid of human habitation in Louisiana these days except in the largest swamps and marshes (which aren’t suitable for Red Foxes). 

The deciding factor was that “soft release” is necessary for kits that are not trained by their parents. A soft release uses an enclosure at the release site for a period to allow for acclimation of the area, and then after the foxes are released, they are provided supplementary food near the enclosure for 2 to 3 weeks, tapering off a bit each day.  In this case, I hide chicks, mice, blueberries, and other fruit and veggies around their enclosure.  I monitor their visits via trail cameras.  As I type this, their supplemental feeding is almost completely done, and I am down to just dropping native berries like beautyberry, elderberry, and muscadine grapes around the enclosure. 

    Having them released in this area would allow for a soft release, as well as allow for monitoring of their behaviors and movements until they disperse when sexually mature (September to October).  I feel since this is my first time doing this, it was necessary for me to ensure they are getting the best chance of survival.  


     Here's a screen grab of the post I saw come up in Nextdoor! 

    Here's a screen grab of the post I saw come up in Nextdoor! 

    So, they've been released.  It didn't go as smoothly as I had hope.  I'll elaborate in my new journal entry.

    For now let's just say our little overly curious boy got into a bit of trouble, got dehydrated , and he had to be re-captured, vetted, then re-released.  

    To add to the adventures of our problem child, as I like to refer to him, he had approached a few walkers, keeping a good distance, but he approached none the less.  How did we find out? Well, we noticed this week on the Nextdoor app that someone posted about him, much to my horror! See the photo on the right of the post I saw come up on Nextdoor. 

    I was very  worried  at first, because if he can't make it in the wild and behave as a wild fox ought to, by law he will have to be euthanized.  None of the others were going anywhere near people, and if they saw people, they bolted, as they should. Although a bit concerned, I had more hope than not, that if I could educate the people in the area on what to do if they see him (hazing and shooing him away in lieu of trying to befriend him by feeding) his chances of survival would rise quite a bit. He'll learn that approaching humans does nothing beneficial for him, and so in time he will stop. 

    And so right then I began to reply to the posts and concerns.  I must say it's been a better reception than I had anticipated. Blow are some snippets of the positive replies I have received, and I feel even more so confident that we, as a small rural community, can get this boy headed in the right direction.

    The reports also show very promising hunting behavior, which was wonderful to see. The more eyes we have monitoring all all the three foxes that remain in the area, the better.


    The Beginning

    Blog by Amy Shutt | Photos by Amy Shutt and Julie Amador

     I started The Canid Project Red and Gray Fox Rehab and Rescue in May of 2017.  The idea had come to me about a year and a half earlier.  I have a small background in wildlife rehabilitation, as I have volunteered with Leslie Lattimore of Wings of Hope for over 7 years and continue to do so when time allows.  Aside from that, I've always been immensely interested in animals. Photographing, studying or helping to rehabilitate them, they have always been a prominent fixture in my life. 

    I spent a few weeks in England IN 2016 AND 2017 volunteering 10 to 12 hour long days a week with The Fox Project.  This organization has been around since 1991 and are probably the most well known fox rescue in the world.  The hands on knowledge I received through The Fox Project has been the most valuable "training" I could have ever received.  I brought back to the states many aspects of this organization's techniques and protocols.  I've even used their enclosure guidelines to build my own.  The team at The Fox Project has been great as far as support id concerned as well; if I have an issue I'm unsure of I can email them and they always promptly reply, easing my novice nerves.  

    CLICK ON PHOTOS TO SEE FULL SIZE IMAGES. MOUSE OVER IMAGES TO SEE CAPTIONS: 

    Along with my volunteering with the fox ambulance and at the unit, The Fox Project also allowed me to document their many efforts through photography, video, and interviews.  I was able to meet with not just the staff, but a handful of their amazing fosterers, a definite highlight of my time there.  I am still working through all the content and still have a bit more to collect, but there will be more on that experience, the staff, volunteers and the foxes of The Fox Project soon.

    CLICK ON PHOTOS TO SEE FULL SIZE IMAGES. MOUSE OVER IMAGES TO SEE CAPTIONS: 

    Back to my rescue efforts in the USA: We don't see foxes that often in wildlife rehab in Louisiana.  However, last year we did get a handful of Gray Fox kits and a couple of sub-adult Red Foxes. This year, starting in late April, Leslie started receiving Red Fox kits and I wanted to help her out as much as I could, so we started the construction of the first fox enclosure in May 2017 on my property.  Before I could do anything with the foxes though, I had to get my permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  This entails a test and a checklist of requirements that must be met,  and an enclosure built to the standards set forth by the International Wildlife Rehabilitators Association was the last requirement I needed to fill.

    CLICK ON PHOTOS TO SEE FULL SIZE IMAGES. MOUSE OVER IMAGES TO SEE CAPTIONS: 

    With the physical help of Julie Amador and Mike Ginn and the monetary help of some supporters, we completed the enclosure in about 2 full days. In late May we transferred the five Red Fox kits to my new enclosure, and so a new chapter begins.

    The Fox Effect

    By Amy Shutt (written in December 2016)

    I’ve never lived a conventional life. Things don’t happen to me in the same way or order they do for most people I know. I didn’t go to college right out of high school and graduate in four years with a degree that would guarantee me a job with benefits and a 401K. The route I chose took me 10 years before I was able to graduate college. I attended three universities and went through three majors before staying put in Philosophy. I had basically given up photography when I switched my major from it to Philosophy.  Going to school for photo had unfortunately caused an aversion to the craft. 

    I worked and went to school mostly part-time, but pushed through full-time the past two years. During all this I was also raising my daughter on my own and had been since I was 21 years old . I worked 14 hour days on my online retail business and it was doing fairly well. 

    In the spring of 2007 I was running my business from home and it was doing well enough that I eventually needed more space. After many years of living in a tiny garage apartment I finally had the means to move into a real house. It was still a rental but this was a real house on a lake near the university, and perhaps one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in this city. 

    I chose the house because it was built in the late 1930s and there were heirloom bulbs in the messy cottage garden. I recognized the gladiolus flowers were a variety from the 1940s and the walking irises were just as old, probably passed along from a neighbor. I also chose the house because I could look out the kitchen window and see cormorants, herons and egrets on the lake through early blooming camellias that dotted the long rolling back yard. I’d always lived near water and I was excited to continue the trend for my daughter. Waterways, ponds, and lakes in Louisiana mean birds, turtles, and other fantastic critters-the kinds of things that just feel like home to me.  

    We had been living in the new house a month so far so we were still busy settling in and unpacking. One gorgeous Louisiana spring afternoon as we headed home, I drove into our neighborhood and as I turned the corner only a block from our house my daughter pointed and yelled, “Mom, I just saw a fox!”. I instantly slammed on the breaks and looked back; she was right. There to my left sitting in the drainage ditch between the street and the sidewalk was an adult fox. Her copper fur shown like tiny blazes of fire in the late afternoon light as it filtered through the Live Oak tree canopy above. I backed my car up slowly and stopped when we were eye to eye with her. She just stared at us; she didn’t budge. To this day I think she was the tamest, or boldest, fox I’ve ever come across. 

    I was locking eyes with something that looked and felt so much like a domestic dog, until I noticed her thin vertically oriented pupils. They were more cat-like than canid.  At that moment I didn’t know why her pupils were shaped like that, but I saw the wildness of that animal in a way I’ve never seen it in an animal before or since. I couldn’t look away; I was completely transfixed.

    Later I would learn that the shape of the fox’s pupil and the degree to which they can close down or open them is what allows them to see in dim light; its an important feature since they are largely nocturnal. Not only that, vertically oriented pupils help predators who hunt ambush style, those who hide until they attack their prey from a close distance.  The pupil shape allows them to judge distance without moving their head, which for an ambush predator is vital to avoid detection from their prey. We stared each other down for a few more seconds before she very calmly disappeared into the drainage pipe. 

    I quickly drove home to grab my camera. All my film cameras were boxed away so all I kept around was a point and shoot that could fit in a coat pocket. Armed with my tiny camera, I pulled the car up next to the drainage pipe and out popped the adult fox. And then to our surprise out popped a fox kit too! The kit was just as bold as the mom and she looked at us curiously, sniffing the air. We watched them for a couple of minutes then they disappeared into the pipe. I took three snapshots that day.

     

    Evening walks soon led us to the den. The fox family was making their home just a few blocks from our home underneath an old uninhabited but maintained house. The house faced the lake and was on a rather busy road, but the foxes largely used the drainage pipes to navigate the area. I remember one morning just after sunrise we drove past the fox house and noticed a small traffic jam caused by the sight of the kits playing rambunctiously outside of their den. As I slowly drove past a man in a truck opposite of me asked, “Can you believe this?  Amazing isn’t it?” I smiled and nodded my head. Yes, it was quite an amazing sight.  

    People seemed to really enjoy this little mini-view into the wild on their way to work or school. Taking in the entire scene made me smile, but I remember being a bit concerned for their well-being at the same time. It seems for every one person who welcomes urban wildlife there is another who feels the opposite and who might be capable of trying to have the animal removed and “relocated”. The problem with this is two-fold. Removing and relocating or trapping and killing an animal from an environment just opens up the space for another animal to move in, and if the population is healthy,  one will. Both of these options have always seemed pointless to me. Also, animals are territorial. Relocating an animal could dump it into another animal’s territory, immediately causing conflict. 

    About a week after we discovered the den location, my daughter and I sat down at the bottom of the fox house driveway at dusk to watch the fox family emerge from under the house. We sat about 15 feet from each other and kept a good distance from the den entrance. One by one they slowly started to emerge. Mom fox noticed us immediately but kept a distance and just watched us watching her babies, who ran and romped and played and chirped. The bolder kit of the litter soon took notice of my daughter, looking curiously and sniffing the air as he made his way towards her. The others followed soon after. At the time my daughter had long hair down to her waist and she used a fruit-scented shampoo. I wondered if the fruity scents of her freshly washed hair is what drew them to her.. They got closer and closer and eventually their little noses were an inch from her hair and for 20 seconds there was my daughter with a garland of coppery little foxes wrapped around her. The one thought that keep going through my mind was, ‘Why don’t you have a camera with you?’  They eventually lost interest and went back to their romping and running. My daughter was 11 at the time and I know it was an experience she’ll always remember. 

    After that, I remembered to bring my point and shoot with me on our next early evening walk. Keeping distance and watching to make sure I wasn’t making mom fox uncomfortable or nervous,  I shot off a few pictures to document the family. The pictures are awful because of the low resolution of the tiny camera and with bad lighting it couldn't correct for, but they are still some of my favorites captured moments. They represent the last time I saw the fox family. Neighborhood talk was that the couple to the left of the fox house had them trapped and removed. I’ll never know if that happened, or if they were run off from the den, but either way we never saw them again.  

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    The pictures (shown above) also represents a very pivotal moment in my life and it’s why I feel I owe so much to the fox. After I took those snapshots that day I uploaded them to an online forum I used to journal and speak to friends on. The first response was from a Russian photographer friend of mine, “Oh these do these creatures no justice. Go and get your cameras out of storage, stop being stubborn, and start shooting again” was the gist of what he typed to me that day. And I remember thinking that he was off the mark because I was just shooting the foxes in a documentary fashion and it didn’t matter. However, I knew deep down it did matter. It mattered in the sense that I gave up something that once gave me great joy and happiness. I gave up the one thing I never got bored with and the one thing I was always hungry to learn more about. It wasn’t just a disservice to the foxes but it was a disservice to myself too.  I was being stubborn and getting in my own way.

    I vowed that day to start shooting again. It meant a lot at the time because I had yet to make the DSLR leap from film. I was a purist and had resisted it for some time. But that day it all became clear, and I started saving up for my first DSLR. Had none of these experiences happened, had I never moved to that house, had I never seen those foxes,  I would not be doing what I do today.  Photography would not be a part of my life. And yes, I came back to it in a roundabout unconventional way and “late” comparatively speaking, but as I mentioned early on--nothing I do seems to be the result of conventions. I follow my heart more often than my logic, which can sometimes result in a little bit of magic in my life.  

    Sometimes when I am with students at a workshop or they tell me how much they have fallen in love with photography or nature having gone through my basic photography class, a little picture of the fox family pops up in my mind. Over the past 4 years, I’ve taught hundreds of students and I wonder if I’d never had the pleasure of meeting the fox family if, photographically speaking, my students would be doing what they are doing today. 

    It makes me think of the term butterfly effect, with reference to chaos theory, which is defined as “the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere”. It’s not exactly the same thing, but taking from the general idea I’ve come to call all of this The Fox Effect. There are undeniable links and connections to foxes in my life and to the people around me. This new photojournalistic project of mine on canids that I’ve been formulating in my mind for almost a year now is a tribute to these inspirational creatures we call foxes and their canid relatives. It is about this effect they have had on my life and those who come into contact with them in some capacity. I hope you follow along.