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Tuesday, January 30 • 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Poster Display. Risk-averse Foraging and Gray Fox Climbing Behavior

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AUTHORS: Jordyn O’Gara, Michaela Fisher, Melissa Walsh, Abby Keller, Erik R. Olson - Northland College

ABSTRACT: Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) are one of two canid species that are capable of climbing trees. Researchers have hypothesized that gray fox climb for food acquisition, predator avoidance, or denning. However, to our knowledge, no one has yet attempted to quantify gray fox scansorial behavior. In the fall of 2014, we initiated a study to quantify the limitations of gray fox climbing ability. Using baited trail cameras from thirty-one study sites in Northern Wisconsin, we observed gray fox climbing on over 16 separate occasions. We used logistic regression to compare tree and site characteristics of climbing events to those where the fox did not climb. Fox were 2.2 times more likely to climb branched trees than clean-bowled trees.  We then examined whether or not bait height and weight were significant predictors of fox climbing within branched or clean-bowled trees. Within clean-bowled trees we documented a significant relationship among bait weight and height, with fox more likely to climb clean-bowled trees if the bait was large or closer to the ground. However, these factors do not appear to be limiting to the likelihood of a gray fox climbing a heavily branched tree. Fox climbing behavior was also more prevalent during time periods that correspond with spikes in seasonal nutritional limitations. We believe gray fox climbing is a risk-aversive foraging behavior.  Climbing clean-bowled trees appears to be a risky behavior relative to branched trees – an observation reinforced by our observations of a captive fox participating in an enrichment program at the Wildwood Zoo in Marshfield, WI. Gray fox appear to maximize benefits while minimizing risks.

Tuesday January 30, 2018 6:00pm - 9:00pm CST
Ballroom C & Foyer