New Jersey may be the most paved over state in the union, but we still have enough wild places to be concerned about what is going to happen to our open spaces, and the plants and animals that inhabit them, in the future. The other day, a gray fox appeared in the driveway right outside our window. It paused long enough for me to get a really good look, but not long enough to get its picture (photo above, courtesy US Bureau of Reclamation). Then it dashed off into the brush to eat its catch (one of my favorite chipmunks, no doubt) and have a nap.
At first, I wasn’t sure whether it was a gray fox or a red one, since both have red fur, so I turned to my National Audubon Society Field Guide. The Guide has excellent photos of both foxes side by side, so the differences are easily distinguished. These guides are superb for backyard wildlife enthusiasts, as each is specific to a geographic region, such as the Mid-Atlantic.
As usual, one thing led to another and I spent the next 30 minutes reading everything I had on the gray fox. I was surprised to find that they only weigh about 12 pounds, that they can climb trees, that they prefer woodlands to open fields, and that they eat fruit.
Another great reference book to keep on hand is the Humane Society of the United States’ Wild Neighbors. This volume covers the birds and mammals most likely to appear in your backyard and provides information on their natural history, habitat, diet, reproduction, etc. But the most important part of each chapter is the “Problems and Solutions” section, which offers humane alternatives for living in harmony with our wild neighbors.
I urge my New Jersey readers to vote YES on public question #3 on Election Day. A YES vote will supply one more year of Garden State preservation funds. This money provides valuable matching funds to individual municipalities that have an open space tax for the purpose of land preservation.
If we don’t stop the fragmentation of habitat and insist on more sustainable development, the gray fox and its kind will continue to disappear from New Jersey.