For the first time in more than a decade, it appears the gray fox is reproducing in the Presidio of San Francisco.
Surveillance video footage of at least three gray foxes roaming a vacant building near Crissy Field was captured in August and early this month. Jonathan Young, a wildlife ecologist with the Presidio Trust, visited the site Monday where the foxes were spotted and said it appears the charismatic canines entered the vacant building through broken windows.
“They used to be apparently really common in the Presidio and probably in Golden Gate Park and McLaren Park,” Young said. “But as coyotes came back, the coyotes established their role as top carnivores and there was a decline [in gray foxes].”
In fact, the first gray fox sighting in the Presidio since 2003 came in February. Confirming there are at least three of the animals, however, indicates that the fox population is likely growing.
“The fact that they’re breeding in the park is much more significant than just seeing one individual,” Young noted.
While the gray fox is common throughout Northern and Central America, they were thought to have been wiped out by coyotes in The City. Now that they appear to be back, it’s unknown whether the gray fox and coyote will manage to coexist.
Young studied the area where the gray foxes are believed to have traversed, and said several factors will help their survival, including thick blackberry brambles that coyotes cannot navigate. Gray foxes are also the only canines that can climb trees.
“A lot of these areas with really thick vegetation for them to run and play and hunt and evade predation from coyotes is going to be what supports the long-term gray fox population,” Young said.