Young Fox family spotted at Millennium Park goes viral – NBC Chicago

A dynamic young family has just moved into a spacious property near the lake in downtown Chicago.

No, not the brood of a crypto-billionaire. A family of foxes call Millennium Park home.

At least four little cubs were seen roaming the park’s Lurie Garden late Monday night, jumping in and out of their den as surprised visitors stopped to snap a photo of the furry family.

The little canines bit each other and chased their tails around the garden. They healed themselves and ran in and out of the greenery of the park.

A Reddit user and photographer has sparked animal curiosity after posting images of the young foxes to the Chicago subreddit.

Liza Lehrer, deputy director of the Urban Wildlife Institute, said her organization has been in contact with park staff about the foxes.

Staff have observed the kits hunt and exhibit natural behavior, indicating that they have not become dependent on humans.

“There are a lot of good things they’re looking for,” Lehrer said. “They display a lot of really positive natural behaviors, they hunt birds and small mammals and things like that.” She said the kits were spotted in the garden alongside their mother.

In 2021, Chicago Animal Care and Control, in partnership with the Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo, released a Wildlife Management and Coexistence Plan.

The plan outlined best practices for reducing conflict and helping people live alongside wildlife and nature in the Chicago area. That includes not feeding young foxes, cute as they are, Lehrer said.

“We encourage people to really appreciate the nature around them and to really observe, do not disturb,” Lehrer said. “So keep your distance from wildlife, certainly, and give them plenty of space.”

Foxes are omnivores, which means they eat a variety of things, including insects, reptiles, rabbits, birds, and fruits. They do most of their hunting at night.

Lehrer said the foxes may have chosen the park as their home to avoid coyotes, who would be their main competition for habitat. Coyotes prefer to stay in places with low human activity and plenty of room to roam. Coyotes have also been known to kill foxes to reduce their competition.

“We think red foxes hang out more in residential areas and in some pockets where they can avoid coyotes,” Lehrer said. “And you know, Millennium Park could be one of those really great spaces, even though there’s more human activity there.”

The foxes have probably figured out how to navigate the busy streets surrounding the park safely.

“We don’t know exactly when they cross these roads, but maybe they find times when the traffic is lower,” Lehrer said. “They are more active at night. So I suspect they’re probably crossing those major roads later at night when the traffic is lower, and maybe they somehow found the best times to do that.

Red foxes are generally smaller than coyotes, weighing an average of 7 to 15 pounds and standing up to 20 inches at the shoulder. They are generally solitary and do not form packs.

They are native to the area but are only present in certain areas of the city and do not have a large population. It’s difficult to get a good estimate of their total number because foxes are hard to track, Lehrer said.

But a clue can be found in the institute’s 13-year-long biodiversity monitoring study, Lehrer said. As part of the study, the institute is keeping tabs on 100 locations in the Chicago area using trail cameras. Lehrer said a recent scan of those sites found foxes present in about 13 of those locations.

The fox family will certainly join the list of viral Chicago creatures in recent years. This list includes the piping plover lovers Monty and Rose, the enormous snapping turtle “Chonkosaurus” and the famous alligator “Chance the Snapper”.

Lehrer said the furry family is just a small example of the diverse wildlife that calls the city home.

“There are tons of different wildlife living in Chicago, all kinds of mammals, birds and reptiles which if you look closely you can really see how rich the Chicago area is in biodiversity. “, said Lehrer. .

NBC Chicago

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