November 26, 2013
A few days ago, Miguel Ordeñana, NHMer and local biologist working on the Griffith Park Connectivity Study, captured images of the elusive gray fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus. Fortunately, I'm able to speak fox (growing up on a farm in England gives you certain skills), and have, through the magic of Photoshop, been able to translate his "Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding's" and "Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow's" into English.
*If you have no idea what the heck I'm talking about, you may want to check out Ylvis' sensational internet hit, "What Does the Fox Say?" Sure the fox they are talking about is most likely the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, but hey, I think you'll get the idea!
This is what the gray fox says:
All kidding aside, this is great news. According to Miguel, it is only the third time he's captured images of gray foxes in L.A., after almost two and half years of camera trapping! Why is this?
Mostly, it's because there just aren't many living in urban Los Angeles. They've been documented in the Baldwin Hills, on a golf course in South Los Angeles (not too far from the Museum), and in both Elysian and Griffith parks. Miguel, and other scientists studying urban carnivores, note that they "seem to be finding pockets of habitat that have enough resources, tree cover, and relatively low densities of coyotes." Even though gray foxes are very adaptable due to their small size and omnivorous diet, the larger, more social and aggressive coyote seems to have won out in the local wild dog war.
But, they're out there as Miguel's camera traps can attest, they're just pretty secretive. Not only are they mostly nocturnal, they also take to hiding while at rest. This can be in their underground den, in your backyard brush pile, or even up a tree! Gray foxes are one of the few Canids that can climb trees! By rotating their forearms, they can hug the trunk of a tree and propel themselves up the trunk with their hind legs. They've been known to scale heights of up to 60 feet, and sometimes they even build dens in the leafy reaches. How's that for vertical living in Los Angeles?
Learn more about our local gray foxes at Urban Carnivores.
August 15, 2013
Check out this never before seen image of our now famous Griffith Park mountain lion, Puma concolor, referred to by scientists as P-22.
P-22 (aka Hollywood) caught on camera by L.A. City Park Ranger Adam Dedeaux
Here's what Miguel Ordeñana, a field biologist and colleague of mine here at the Museum has to say about P-22:
"For those of you who don’t know, there is a mountain lion living in Griffith Park. You may have seen some of his pictures on the Nature Lab [our latest Museum exhibit] screen. My research team (Griffith Park Connectivity Study) first discovered him with one of our camera traps about a year and a half ago. This was the first photographic evidence of a mountain lion in Griffith Park. He was captured, collared, released, and named (P-22/Puma 22) soon after by National Park Service biologists. He is now the most urban mountain lion known to exist and an awesome ambassador for Griffith Park and urban wildlife conservation.
Two years ago (when P-22 was two years old), I gave one of my first talks about the Griffith Park Connectivity Study. At the time, documenting a mountain lion in Griffith Park seemed out of the question because we thought the park was too isolated from larger open spaces that bordered the park. An L.A. City park ranger was interested in camera trapping and asked me how to increase his chances of capturing a bobcat (the most elusive Griffith Park predator at the time) on camera. I gave him a few tips on how to increase his chances of capturing bobcats. He eventually purchased his own camera trap and 2 years later he captured one of the best videos of P-22 that I have ever seen."
Wow thanks Miguel! Last Friday I had the pleasure of being on a panel for Zocolo Public Square titled, Does L.A. Appreciate Its Wild Animals? Our moderator Kathryn Bowers, author of the book Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health, asked the panelists and the audience, "what should be the official animal of Los Angeles?" As an entomophile I went straight for harvester ants, since they're social, they work together, they create their own cities, and they can protect themselves with an impressive sting! However, I was in the minority, many of the audience voted for P-22. One gentleman even stood up and advocated for a new name. I mean P-22 isn't very catchy or charismatic, right?
A number of names were suggested, including Hollywood and Jimmy (a reference to the James Dean statue in Griffith Park). Although I am a fan of Rebel Without a Cause, I think this lion has a cause. I mean obviously he is trying to live his life like all the rest of us are – trying to find food, water, shelter, and at some point a mate. But to me it is more than that, against the odds (and the traffic on the 405 and 101 freeways) he has chosen L.A.'s largest city park as his home. Just like many of us in Los Angeles this lion is not a local, he is from wilder and more open country, but has chosen to live in the city now. So why not have this lion help us represent a new Los Angeles? A Los Angeles that embraces the wildlife from its urban core all the way out to its wild edges, and maybe even upto that big old sign that reads Hollywood! So here's to you Hollywood the Mountain Lion, represent our city and let the world know we've got more than just the movies here. Heck we've got awesome nature too!
Check out the video here!