GRAY FOXES OF SILICON VALLEY

Amid the tech centers and traffic of busy freeways criss-crossing Palo Alto, California, lives a surprising resident of the city: the gray fox. About the size of a house cat, the gray fox is a charismatic yet little known species that is figuring out ways to adapt to life in the margins between green space and city development. 

For six years, Bill Leikam and Greg Kerekes of the Urban Wildlife Research Project have been documenting a population of gray foxes living around a small, six-acre marshland. The foxes in their study area have staked out territories next to industrial buildings, apartment complexes, golf courses, landfills and yes, right near the busy and deadly 101 freeway. The team monitors the foxes on a daily basis, learning a good deal about the behavior of the species and the challenges they face living in an urban setting.

The team is also mapping out the creeks, culverts and other corridor passageways that the foxes and other wildlife use to move between hunting grounds or to disperse to new areas, including which corridors require restoration. They hope that by building a network of well-maintained wildlife corridors around the Bay Area, hundreds of species from the gray foxes to beavers, bobcats, coyotes, deer and mountain lions will have an easier time navigating from the Santa Cruz mountain range to the Diablo mountain range. 

The team hopes to expand their monitoring efforts of the gray foxes to include DNA analysis to better understand the genetic diversity and lineage of the population they are studying, as well as GPS collaring to pinpoint key areas where wildlife corridors can assist foxes to safely disperse to new territories. 

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