I get many calls. Some I can answer easily; others are, well, strange. I've been a biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife...
I get many calls. Some I can answer easily; others are, well, strange.
I’ve been a biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for 20 years, and only once has someone suggested he might have a backyard space alien. Described as a cross between monkey, fox and Amazon parrot, I could not come up with even a suggestion of a species, but “Wizard of Oz” did come to mind.
This creature crept around on the deck nightly, death-ray eyes shining into the house during the 11 o’clock news. Asked if we had extraterrestrials in Seattle, I said no. ETs would not be protected, anyway, not being native wildlife.
We do have foxes — aliens of a sort. They are native to the central and east Cascades but are introduced in our area.
Most Read Life Stories
- Sunday Best: Emily Blunt, Iman are among the fashion winners from 2021 Met Gala
- Rant & Rave: Reader gives a lesson on the etiquette of waiting in line at Dick’s
- For a Jewish-style deli with 'big, ridiculous sandwiches' and great Ethiopian and Colombian eats, explore this Seattle neighborhood
- How the body of a hiker who disappeared two years ago was found in the North Cascades
- What gravel riding is and why you might want to try this new cycling activity
These alien foxes are probably descendents of fur-farm escapees, fox-hunt survivors and released captive animals from which breeding populations established. These introduced populations seem to stick to our low-elevation farms and developed areas. They have been seen in places such as Discovery Park.
Eyes of mature animals are yellow and glow in the dark when light hits them, explaining the mysterious death rays. Foxes and cats have evolved extremely similar eyes, with vertical slits and the reflective layer of tapetum lucidum behind the retina. This improves night vision for hunting prey, which is, by the way, largely rodents.
They have a characteristic way of hunting mice, standing motionless, listening and watching intently. When a mouse is detected, the fox leaps high, as if wearing rocket boots, bringing its forelimbs straight down, pinning the mouse to the ground.
Red foxes store food and are very good at relocating these caches. They are solitary animals and do not form packs.
Red fox populations are stable, expanding their range in response to what we humans have to offer.
If you observe a red fox, please let me know. But the ones with wings, you can keep to yourself.
Patricia Thompson is a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
She can be reached at http://wdfw.wa.gov.