SciSun: Fast (as a fox) Food

Last week we talked about raccoons ‘washing’ their food, and how it’s not really to get the food clean as raccoons will eat most anything (even things they shouldn’t). Now, scientists who follow families of the San Joaquin Kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) have discovered that when the foxes live in areas with humans, they will eat almost anything, too (the Foxes, that is. We don’t know what the scientists eat). And they (again, the foxes. Not humans) will eat so much of the leftover fast food, garbage, and other bad things that they are about 20% fatter and have higher levels of cholesterol than foxes that eat more traditional fox-foods. (This IS beginning to sound like we’re talking about humans!) Of course this is bad for the foxes, but even worse is when the foxes start to depend on these foods, they forget how to find normal fox food; AND by hanging around garbage cans and human areas, the foxes can be attacked by loose dogs and cats, and hit by cars. Some people put out traps and poison to stop the foxes, too, thinking the foxes can be dangerous.

But the foxes are really pretty harmless (unless you’re a mouse. Or a leftover hamburger). The foxes were made to be opportunistic eaters – that means they need a varied diet of whatever is available at the time: Small rodents like mice; eggs; insects; berries; even grass and plants if there’s nothing else. This works well when the foxes are in the wild and not around humans. But it’s not so good when the foxes are living in the same areas as humans, and they can find half-eaten fast food, and dropped candy and popcorn (extra butter!), and garbage, and all types of other bad foods. So, the foxes take the opportunity to eat what they find, and you end up with fat foxes. This is all the worse because the San Joaquin Kit fox is endangered – there aren’t that many of them left – and if they get sick, there could be even less than there are now.

So what does all this mean? Obviously, we shouldn’t be leaving food out where foxes or other animals can get it. And, we should – ALL of us, humans and foxes alike – should keep a well-balanced diet. A hamburger now and then is OK, but remember all the other foods we should be eating. Like fruits, and vegetables, and grains, and insects. That is, if you’re a Fast Food Fox.

"Would I like to add an order of fries?? What do you think?"

There are lots of great places to learn more about animals who are Opportunistic Eaters. Here are a few to get you started:

http://www.ohiowildlifecenter.org/coyote-info.cfm

http://olympiccoast.noaa.gov/living/marine_wildlife/marine_mammals/spp_ca_sealion.html

http://www.environmentyukon.gov.yk.ca/wildlifebiodiversity/mammals/agsquirrel.php

 

And don’t forget to check out your local library!

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