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Thursday, December 25, 2014
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Published: Friday, 1/25/2013

Red fox proves wildlife no stranger to urban environment

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

There was nothing unusual on the radar, so it was just another late afternoon on patrol in downtown Toledo recently when officer Jeff Dorner and his partner Brian Young wheeled their patrol car around the corner near Promenade Park.

Like most experienced law enforcement personnel, the duo had nearly “seen it all” in their careers. But they had no track record in dealing with what they saw next.

Walking down the sidewalk near the river’s edge, seemingly oblivious to the motorized traffic nearby and the significant human imprint on the surroundings, was a red fox.

“It wasn’t paying attention to us, or anything else around the area,” Dorner said. “It seemed like it was headed somewhere, with a purpose.”

Although the sighting was atypical, seeing a fox or other wildlife going about their business in the heart of downtown is not an extremely rare event. Such close encounters of the wildlife kind seem to be on the rise as habitat surrounding our cities improves, and the creatures of the earth become more resourceful and more able to adapt to a semi-urban lifestyle.

Sightings of white-tailed deer within Toledo, Ottawa Hills and Sylvania, and in Maumee and Perrysburg along the Maumee River corridor, are so common that we sometimes forget those are still wild animals.

We now witness bald eagles tracing arcs across the skies all around the region, and after a fresh snow we see the mishmash of tracks along trails and walkways and are reminded about how many coyotes are slinking around the edges of our urban areas.

So the fox that officer Dorner saw waltzing along the riverfront was really a furry contradiction — wildlife functioning in a manner that is uncommonly common as their innate adaptability allows them to appear unconcerned about their surroundings, while maintaining their wild ways.

“It stopped a few times to check the garbage cans, obviously looking for food, but then it just continued on its way,” Dorner said. “We watched it continue on to the area near the base of Jefferson Avenue, and then it disappeared into some bushes or under the bridge. It was right there in front of us where we could watch it for a bit, and then it was gone.”

Dorner, who has been covering the downtown area for 12 years, with much of the time spent as part of the department’s bike patrol team, has had an on-the-ground perspective of wildlife activity in the area. He had seen deer, groundhogs, and opossums, along with many ducks and geese, but the fox was a first.

The red fox is a mostly nocturnal hunter that will include rodents, rabbits, birds, fish, frogs, insects and worms in its diet, but the urbanized fox also will make the most of any opportunity to dine on garbage and pet food. The fox that officer Dorner observed had obviously learned to associate the large trash cans downtown with a reliable food source, so that’s where it looks for food.

Another officer recently witnessed a fox moving along near the woods by the Scott Park baseball fields. Scott Porterfield of Sylvania reported recently that a coyote had been making regular appearances in his back yard, near Ten Mile Creek. Porterfield said the canine has grown less wary of human activity, and will sit just a few feet away from the backside of the house.

The sightings and encounters with coyotes have become so common along the Maumee River corridor near Side Cut Park that area resident Jim Seibold does not consider it unusual any longer.

“We know they are out there — we see them regularly — but the howling is still a little unsettling,” Seibold said after relaying accounts of a chorus of coyote calls shattering the nighttime silence. The coyotes come so close to the house that Seibold is extra cautious about when he feels it’s safe to put the family dog outside.

Mike Coon of Point Place says his neighbor recently witnessed a good battle out on her deck between a resident squirrel and an invading mink that was obviously game for a fight.

After grabbing the squirrel’s tail in its mouth, the mink pursued the squirrel as it scooted up a nearby tree. As two other squirrels arrived at the scene of the fracas, the water-loving mink realized it was a bit out on a limb and in unfamiliar territory, and jumped down on top of the dike along the waterfront.

Still up for a good brawl, the normally reclusive and elusive mink went back up on the deck while the trio of squirrels chattered taunts from a. The mink’s only trophy from the skirmish was a chunk of the squirrel’s tail.

BOATER EDUCATION CLASS: The Toledo Sail & Power Squadron will offer boater education classes over the next five Mondays, a course that will offer the certificate required by both Ohio and Michigan. The “America’s Boating Course” will be offered at Mercy St. Charles Hospital on Navarre Avenue in Oregon from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., beginning on Monday, Jan. 28 and running through Feb. 25. The cost is $45 per person/book, and $25 for additional person sharing the book. The certificate will be awarded once the boating exam is passed. For information and registration, call or email Larry Cole at 734-755-7252 or at the boater734@chartermi.net address.

DELTA WATERFOWL BANQUET: The Tri-County Delta Waterfowl banquet will be held on Feb. 1 at the Fostoria American Legion Hall at 550 Zeller Road. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with a dinner of ribs from Dell’s Restaurant served at 6:30. There will be silent auctions, live auctions, raffles and door prizes. For more information or tickets, contact Dottie Colbert at 419-722-7853 or Billie Moyer at 419-619-3424 or Tom Herman at 419-619-3168.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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