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DEAR JOAN: Recently, the Sentinel, a free paper here in Danville, had a front page article with a color photo of a red fox. About the same time frame, my husband and I were on the road up to the San Ramon hospital and were startled by either a coyote or a red fox attempting to cross the road right in front of us around 10 a.m.
Have these interbred? The fox seemed to have extraordinarily long legs, but so did the fox photo in the Sentinel. So I am confused.
That area up by the hospital has been known for years as having huge flocks of wild turkeys — or perhaps several — that were so brazen as to impede the entrances to the medical office buildings. Now they are nowhere to be seen.
Does anyone know what happened or how the birds were discouraged? They were so unafraid that they would get on the cars in the parking lot and poop everywhere, making the entire area a “slip and slide” and very unsafe.
Zoe Jones, Danville
DEAR ZOE: If you only see an animal at a glance as it darts across the road, it can be difficult to identify it.
Coyotes and foxes are in the same family of canines, but they belong to different branches of the canine family tree.
Coyotes are larger than foxes, weighing 20 to 45 pounds, while foxes tip the scales at 8 to 20 pounds. To me, coyotes have a more doglike appearance, while foxes have a more delicate, refined look to them. The fox’s ears are upright; the coyote’s are triangular shaped. The tail length is another good way of telling them apart. The fox’s tail is about the same length as its body, while the coyote’s tail is shorter.
As for any extracurricular activity, it’s highly unlikely there’s any hanky panky going on. Wild animals mostly tend to breed with their own species, and even though coyotes and foxes are both canines, they are too different to spark a love match. More importantly, they are competitors when it comes to food, something all wildlife takes very seriously.
Although coyotes are capable of killing larger animals such as deer, they also eat smaller creatures, which are the very foods the foxes are after. Foxes tend to avoid the larger coyotes, which might kill them to prevent them from partaking of the food.
Researchers recently reported that foxes and coyotes coexist better in urban areas, where food tends to be more plentiful, but that hasn’t made them friends or snuggle buddies.
Hospitals and large office buildings with a lot of landscaping often find themselves dealing with lots of wild turkeys. In instances where the turkeys pose a threat or hazard, the state will issue predation licenses that allow the birds to be killed.
Otherwise, these companies and homeowners use deterrents such as loud noises, flashing lights, bursts of water and other devices to frighten the birds away.