The oak woodlands and riparian habitat of the Santa Monica Mountains ecosystem provide optimal conditions for a diverse number of wildlife species. While some animals originated in our California environment , many have been introduced. Our mild climate not only attracts human residents but enables many animal species to survive and even thrive here.
Smoke and Fire, our two newest residents at the Wildworks Care Center, are local species of fox—the gray fox, California’s only native and the red fox which originated in Europe.
The gray, having always lived here, is specialized to compete with our larger native canine, the coyote. Appropriately named “the tree fox”, gray foxes can climb to get fruit and to avoid these larger predators. Their strong hooked claws and short powerful legs are designed to give them a tremendous ability to balance and they can even make their nests in trees! Smoke and Fire are best friends and share the same enclosure. While Smoke will sleep on a tree branch, Fire often curls up inside a nest box!
Although they are members of the dog family, red foxes share many similarities with the small cat family. They stalk their prey like a cat, leaping high to pounce, then pinning their catch to the ground. While dog family members have round pupils, red foxes have slit pupils just like our domestic cat. They also walk and run on their toes, like a house cat, bobcat or mountain lion. Considerable color variations can exist in the wild red fox. Their coats can be brown , black, silver or a beautiful bright red like Fire’s coat. One thing they all have in common, which makes them very recognizable, is a white tip on the end of their long fluffy tail. Red foxes have many vocalizations—whimpers, yips, yaps, howls, barks and a blood-curdling scream! Originally brought to North America by British colonists for fox hunts, over time they have displaced indigenous foxes in many parts of the United States.
Foxes are an increasingly rare sight in our open spaces Few Angelinos have seen these shy and beautiful animals. Unfortunately, because they are relatively small and prey upon rodents, they often suffer from backyard poisons and domestic animals that are allowed to run free.
Smoke and Fire are wildlife ambassadors and they travel with us to public outreach programs for people to experience a close view of these beautiful animals. We hope to meet all of you soon!!