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Protecting the rare grey fox on Pelee Island

 Protecting the rare grey fox on Pelee Island

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1/4/2018      

 

Located in west Lake Erie near the U.S. border line, Pelee Island is not only the southernmost populated point in Canada, it’s also the last confirmed refuge in Ontario for the threatened grey fox species.

The grey fox has grizzled grey fur and light cinnamon coloured patches.
The grey fox has grizzled grey fur and light cinnamon coloured patches.

Sized no larger than the average housecat and sharing a similar appearance to their cousin, the red fox, the secretive grey fox is the only canine in the western hemisphere that can climb trees thanks to their semi-retractable claws.

​The cinnamon-and-grey coloured mammal used to be a common sight across southern Ontario and parts of Manitoba. But a loss of forest habitat, along with harsh winters, increased road fatalities, and predators like coyotes, has led to a steep decline in their numbers. Now, the 42 square-kilometre Pelee Island is home to the only confirmed breeding population of grey foxes in the country.

“It’s the last stronghold for the species in Canada,” said Tovah Barocas, Vice President of External Relations for Earth Rangers, one of OPG’s long-term biodiversity partners.

Sadly, habitat degradation on the island continues to threaten the last vestige of the grey fox population. To help curb this trend, Earth Rangers has launched a campaign to protect the rare mammal with the help of their kid members across the province.

Children and their families are encouraged to start a “Bring Back the Wild” campaign to raise funds that will help the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) improve habitat on 1,000 acres of land on Pelee Island. The habitat restoration work will help the omnivorous grey foxes hunt, make dens, and remove invasive plant species that threaten their food supply.

“Some of these invasive species, like garlic mustard and common reed, spread really quickly and take over habitat and native species that act as food for grey foxes,” said Barocas. “It’s all about supporting and sustaining their population.”

Since 2012, OPG has been a proud supporter of Earth Rangers, whose presenters visit schools across the province to educate kids on issues of biodiversity and the environment. The partnership has played a critical role in inspiring more than 47,000 children to protect at-¬risk species across Ontario by raising nearly half a million dollars.

“It’s important to raise a generation of Ontarians that will continue this legacy of habitat protection,” said Barocas.

Fun Facts

  • Grey foxes can climb trees using their sharp, hooked claws
  • The animal is identified by its grizzled grey fur and light cinnamon coloured patches
  • Grey fox dens are usually found in dense shrubs close to a water source