Best of the Tetons

GTNP Fox Documents

As a Commercial Use Permit holder, I receive numerous documents throughout the year that help us with important information. This page contains information about the Fox Project.

Fox Pair

Message Received January 4, 2018 from Patrick Navaille, Grand Teton N.P.

Park Rangers and Roads Crew have become aware of at least one fox, and maybe more, frequenting the Flagg Ranch and Huckleberry Hill areas. The fox behavior has ranged from closely approaching people, vehicles, and buildings; to lingering in parking areas; to being a hazard in the roadway by not leaving on the approach of vehicles — one has even approached a vehicle that slowed down on the highway, prompting a risky evasive maneuver on the icy road. Many of you and your staff have likely made similar observations.

Of course, it is our collective responsibility to help retain the wildness of this place and its native wildlife, which includes small animals and birds, by not feeding them, allowing our visitors and guests to approach wildlife within 25 yards (100 yards for wolves and bears), or remaining within 25 yards when approached by them.

Unfortunately, the recent behavior exhibited by some park foxes indicates human habituation and possible food-conditioning, which may lead to human injury if contact is eventually made or if an evading vehicle crashes on the highway.

In the coming days and weeks, park staff will further study the problem and may mark habituated animals with ear tags and/or soluble paint for better identification. Hazing may also be occur. Generally, we intend to conduct these management actions out of public view, but if you or your guests observe us, please use the opportunity to educate our visitors regarding the potential pitfalls of human visitation into wild areas, and our responsibilities as guests here.

And please:

  • follow all park regulations,
  • report habituated wildlife in a timely way,
  • look for identifying marks, and
  • drive the highway with human safety as your first priority.

Thanks to all!

Message Received January 5, 2018 from John Stephenson, Lead Biologist, Grand Teton N.P.

…The Fish and Wildlife Branch will begin capture, collaring, and ear tagging of resident foxes in Moose (mid to end of Jan), Teton Science School (early to mid Feb), Signal Mountain Lodge (mid to late Feb), and Colter Bay (early to mid Mar) next week. The objectives of this effort are to:

  1. understand movement and foraging ecology, disease prevalence, and genetic lineage in habituated and wild foxes;
  2. understand the degree to which natural and anthropogenic food sources are being used;
  3. determine the level of habituation of each marked individual;
  4. identify where and when human-fox interactions are most likely to occur; and
  5. investigate whether and why certain aversive conditioning techniques may be effective for individual foxes.

Foxes will be released with a radio collar and one small, aluminium colored ear tag (see photo below) in each ear — color combinations will be unique to each fox and not all ear tagged foxes will have collars. Please report any sightings of or interactions with collared and/or ear-tagged foxes via email to me and include the following information:

  1. Date;
  2. Time;
  3. Location (general description, intersection, or address);
  4. Colors of the fox’s left and right ear tags (left/right OF the fox); and
  5. Very brief description of any behavior(s) you think might be worth reporting (especially if fox received a human food reward).

Results of this effort will help us to understand and mitigate human-fox conflicts as well as inform fox management in other National Parks with similar issues (e.g., Mount Rainer, Crater Lake, and Acadia).

Capture efforts will occur in the vicinity of developed areas and trap sites will be signed. Please be sure to follow the rules of your housing contract as it relates to pets to avoid capture of non-target animals.

Many thanks for helping us understand and keep track of foxes and their behaviors in developed areas,

John Stephenson
Wildlife Biologist
Grand Teton National Park


Grand Teton National Park Media Release  January 4, 2018


Food-Conditioned Red Fox Killed

MOOSE, WY-A red fox, which had received numerous food handouts from people in Grand Teton National Park, was put to death recently. The fox exhibited bold behavior by approaching people and vehicles in search of food, and was killed out of concern for human safety. Visitors are reminded that feeding park wildlife is illegal, and may ultimately lead to the death of an animal or injury to park visitors.

“Destruction of a wild animal is one of the most difficult actions we have to take as park stewards,” said Superintendent David Vela. “Hopefully this can serve as a cautionary reminder. I encourage everyone to help protect wildlife by securing food sources, including dog food and fish scraps, and by using the ‘Scare, don’t stare’ tactic to discourage approaching foxes.” Vela added that visitors can help hold each other accountable and should immediately report incidents of animals being fed to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 307.739.3301.

Evidence suggests there has been a marked increase in the population of red foxes in recent years. Accompanying the apparent population increase, biologists have documented increasing numbers of habituated and food-conditioned foxes. The small native animals have been observed begging for food in developed areas and harassing ice fisherman on Jackson Lake.

The rise in human-fox encounters spurred biologists to begin a red fox research project in the winter of 2016-2017. The goal of the study is to improve understanding of red fox ecology and to address management concerns related to human safety and wildlife health. To date, 13 foxes have been captured and tested for disease prevalence, genetic lineage, and use of natural and human foods. Some of these foxes have been fitted with radio collars to track movements and habitat use, locate dens, document reproductive success, and follow other trends.

One of these collared foxes, a two- or three-year-old male, was known to frequent the Jackson Lake Dam and Signal Mountain areas. Reports involving this individual over the last year include lingering around ice fisherman and receiving fish scraps as well as getting into dog food left unsecured by visitors in a campground. In recent weeks, park staff received numerous reports of the bold fox approaching visitors in the dam parking lot, and in at least one instance jumping up on a vehicle to beg for food.

On December 28, park biologists observed the fox for two hours as it continually walked in front of moving vehicles, approached vehicles and people, and loitered in the roadway. The biologists were also told the fox had been fed grapes by a visitor the previous day.

The fox was captured, immobilized, and transported to a location away from visitors to be dispatched. The fox was of a normal healthy weight, and samples were taken to determine its dietary composition. Relocation of the fox was considered, but ultimately dismissed, as relocated foxes typically continue to beg for human food in a new area, return to their original territory, or die due to starvation or competition with other territorial foxes.

The “Scare, don’t stare” tactic includes yelling, clapping, stomping, and avoiding eye contact in an effort to dissuade foxes from approaching humans. The tactic should only be employed after attempts to maintain a minimum viewing distance of 25 yards have failed. It should not be used with foxes that behave naturally.

Attachment: 18-01 Food-Conditioned Red Fox Killed.pdf