Biologists: Foxes not uncommon in area

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

Foxes are shy, smart, and silent creatures who hunt a variety of animals and insects.

There are four species of foxes in New Mexico; red, gray, kit and swift fox.

Eastern New Mexico University Wildlife biologists Zach Jones and Tony Gennaro say foxes can be found almost anywhere.

Gennaro and Jones said they believe foxes are monogamous and stay with only one mate.

“The mommy has the pups, she stays down in the den,” Gennaro said.
“The male brings home the food, and she works the daylights out of him.”

Jones said there are some very strong forces at work in order to keep two aggressive carnivores together year round.

Foxes eat birds, rodents, rabbits and insects. The average life span of a fox is about five or six years.

It is not uncommon to see a red fox in urban areas. They prefer
places that are moist and with trees and vegetation. This is why the
red fox can be seen in the northern part of the state.

But Jones and Gennaro say reds are moving west.

Jones and Gennaro said they think red foxes in this area might be from eastern areas, and have been moving further west.

Gray foxes can climb trees to either hunt for prey or escape from a predator.

“The gray fox is a very unusual occupant here,” Gennaro said. “They
like the Llano Estacado, rocky, pinon and juniper tree-type country.”

Gennaro said gray foxes have been seen in Portales, but that might be due to displacement because houses or a chance phenomenon.

Jones said the first reported gray fox in the area was in 2004 when a carcass was found on the road near Wal-Mart in Portales.

“I don’t know how many there are, but there are gray and red foxes, both here,” Jones said.

“Gray foxes have gray on their backs and are grisly looking, and
have short ears, with a black strip running down the center of their
tail.”

Kit foxes roam the southern grasslands and desert side of the state, the Swift Fox is in the east.

“They like open country, short grass, a complete lack of cover,”
Jones said. “When you typically think of a fox, you think of cover,
forest and streams. Kit and swift foxes think the opposite.”

Kit is a small fox, a slight black spot at the end of its tail, with large ears.

“Depending upon the authority, the swift fox is found east of the
Pecos River,” Jones said. “The kit fox is found in the west and (they)
are very different, some authorities would say they are the same
species.”

Uncommonly, foxes have been known to carry rabies.

“Wildlife takes on a different behavior when there is something
wrong with them. A rabid fox, which is uncommon will not be wild, it
will come towards people, and that’s why we have to be careful,”
Gennaro said.

Foxes can be brazen animals when around humans, but they remain at a safe distance to protect themselves.

“You don’t want to develop a domesticated relationship with a wild animal,” Jones said.