RED FOXES: Beware 'the cuddle factor'
December 12, 2008
Not to rain on anybody's Red Fox parade, but I ran into Fred Virrazzi of National Biodiversity Parks, a non-profit land preservation and ecological
He was less enthusiastic about Red Foxes than I was... I asked him to elaborate in an e-mail, which he did...
Writes Fred: "We often see the Red Fox almost worshiped by birders, photographers and the general public.
"Certainly they are a charismatic and striking species, but a 'cuddle factor' shouldn't cause us to abandon a certain level of caution before we fully embrace another possible invasive species in New Jersey.
"Purple Loosestrife can also produce a striking picture.
"There is strong evidence that the Red Fox was either never
in most parts of New Jersey or all of New Jersey and at the
very least was augmented by Colonial releases. Settlers were
dissatisfied with the native Gray Fox, which would tree after very short chases
while the Red Fox would just keep running.
"Red Foxes are omnivores and as such would by definition be competing with many native species such as owls and hawks. It must at least be considered that they may be more prone to disperse certain damaging European origin and other non-native weeds, seeds and pods/fruits.
"Naturally if they are fed by humans, which has happened in many places in NJ including places like Sandy Hook National Gateway Park and Island State Beach Park, their numbers can swell adversely impacting native nesting ground birds such as ducks, grouse, quail, terns and shorebirds. Some of these species are endangered.
"Ecology is too complex to determine what may be one of the earliest mammal invasives, besides man's, impact on the neoworld.
"Its false or elevated portrayal to great indicator of habitat quality at the expense of the Gray Fox and other native species might need an attitude adjustment."