BEND, OR -- The newest resident of the High Desert Museum is a young gray fox. He was brought to a Grants Pass rehabilitation facility in September because he was ill and exhibited some neurological problems. While being nursed back to health, rehab staff discovered the fox was not fearful of humans, preventing him from being released into the wild.
He was acquired by the High Desert Museum, south of Bend, to serve as an educational ambassador. If all goes well with training, the fox will appear in the daily Desert Dwellers program starting in the spring. “We are excited to add this new species to the Museum’s wildlife collection,” Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. said in a statement. “Gray foxes are secretive and mostly nocturnal in nature, so this is a great opportunity to introduce a unique wildlife species to our members and guests.”
Gray foxes have silver-gray fur on the back and face; reddish fur behind the ears, chest and legs and patches of white on the throat and belly. The black-tipped tail is approximately 1/3 the fox’s body length. A member of the dog family, gray foxes have strong, hooked claws that enable them to climb trees to hunt birds and small mammals or take shelter in tree cavities or abandoned bird nests. Though the gray fox is rarely found in the High Desert portion of Oregon, the species is widely distributed from southern Canada, across most of the US and into portions of South America.
“Our wildlife staff will work with the fox and use him to educate visitors about carnivore conservation in our region, and efforts by various nonprofits and governmental agencies to study the distribution, abundance and ecological significance of carnivores, including rare species such as the Sierra Nevada red fox in Central Oregon,” said Jon Nelson, the Museum’s curator of wildlife.
Photo taken by George Lepp, courtesy of the High Desert Museum.