Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I went to check one of my Fairfax County camera-traps today, but was stopped suddenly when I realized a snakes tail flicking in some leaves.  Natural curiosity made me inch closer to the sight, and I could tell already that it was a copperhead about 4 feet from one of my cameras.

With most snakes, I usually try to get a closer look and possibly ID it to see if it is a male or a female, but there's one snake that calls Fairfax County its home, that I will not do this with.

Copperhead near the Potomac River, Fairfax County, Virginia.
Copperheads are somewhat common in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and usually live around the Potomac River, floodplains, and stream valleys.  They are venomous, so let's get that fact out of the way, but from what I've heard and read, a bite on an healthy adult human will usually not lead to death.  Paralysis and other symptoms may occur though, and that's definitely enough to keep me at bay.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kittens, Not Kits

A few weeks ago, colleagues and I found a very active gray fox den.  We scoped out the area a bit and saw kits coming in and out, along with a healthy looking mother. 

Of course a camera-trap was put up at this den (which is a completely different den than the red fox den that I’ve been posting about in the past few weeks). But, like a lot of camera-trapping and wildlife research, results were not at all as expected.

The camera was checked once last week, and to my surprise, not one single image came up of a gray fox.  Results were only of white-tailed deer, a tufted titmouse, and a raccoon.
It was odd, because by this point, on several occasions, I had seen the mother gray foxwith kits around her, about 15 feet from this den entrance.

The camera angle was moved to another entrance hole in the den network, and we waited another week.  Hopes were still high, as I had realized before that maybe the foxes didn’t use the previous entrance hole anymore.

The next time the camera was checked, there were a few white-tailed deer does walking around, and feral cats.  A lot of feral cats.

I saw the mother cat with her kittens, and eventually another adult cat walked by. 

They’re cute, as are a lot of mammalian babies, but these images could be the proof of an ecological problem that could turn into a nightmare.

Here’s why:  The domestic cat is a non-native, invasive species.  They are not supposed to be naturally found in this area (if you ask just about any naturalist, ecologist, or biologist).  If they are pushing native species out of dens, as in this case of the gray foxes, gray foxes may have a harder time raising their next generation.  This could cause less numbers of gray foxes.  Furthermore, this means that the ecosystem could drastically change in many ways. From food web changes to more diseases, I do see the growing feral cat population as a problem.

I won’t get into too many specific changes that these feral cats could cause to the environment, and I’m definitely not going to “Bob Barker” you into getting cats neutered, but this could be bad for both that

specific park itself, and many surrounding areas.  In fact, it may already be a problem, as I have seen over 63 different individual domestic cats on all my cameras just in the past 8 months alone.

Maybe you’ll enjoy these photos as cute and fuzzy kitten images, but maybe you’ll also see why domestic cats should not be roaming the woodlands of northern Virginia.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Piebald Fox Returns

The fox that is called, "White Legs" has not shown up on any Great Falls, VA cameras in a long time.

White Legs has been one of my favorite individual red foxes around for a long time now, and it has been a pleasure watching he/she romping around the forest.

It's been some time since White Legs last showed, many  months actually, but today I checked a camera and realized I finally got an image of the white-legged predator in May.

It's not the perfect image, by any means, but it's enough to prove that it's the fox that I know.

It has grown to be extremely elusive.  This could be a good thing though, as red foxes are naturally afraid of humans and should not be fed or petted by people who live nearby.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Antler Growing Season

It's antler growing season (and will be for the next couple of months) for white-tailed deer.  They'll grow them out, shed their velvety coat, and use them for battle in the winter.  Like spears, the antlers on the tops of white-tailed bucks heads are used for display and fighting.

Proper nutrition and genetic makeup is necessary for growing the biggest pair.

Here's one little buck starting that has been already growing his antlers since a few weeks ago.