The gray fox is a beautiful animal.
First graders attending an elementary school in Columbus, Georgia recently had the opportunity to vote for the state mammal. They chose the gray fox–an admirable selection. But before they had a chance to send the results of their vote to the state legislature, John Bowers, chief of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources game division, paid them a visit. He discouraged their election of the gray fox, claiming they carry rabies and that the choice of the gray fox would aggravate some people. He persuaded them to elect the white tailed deer–also an admirable selection. Nevertheless, I’m disappointed in John Bower’s intervention. It demonstrates the prejudice game and fish management employees still hold against predators. It also shows how little appreciation most of them have for the natural environment other than, “duh, how many animals can we let hunters kill without depleting the resource.” The excuses John Bower gave to exclude the gray fox from becoming the state mammal were unfair. Sure, a few gray foxes can carry rabies, but humans carry thousands of diseases such as AIDS, ebola, measles, and tuberculosis. Shall we condemn all of humanity because people sometimes get sick? Humans are by far the filthiest animals on the planet who continuously pollute the air and water. By contrast, gray foxes are much cleaner than humans. The selection of the white tail deer apparently aggravated 2 members of the state legislature who voted against it. One member, representing an agricultural community, regarded the deer as a pest that destroys farmer’s crops. The other nay vote came from a man who stupidly thought naming the deer as the state mammal would lead to a ban on hunting them. (Most politicians are empty-headed morons easily manipulated by the crooks who paid to get them elected.)
John Bowers, head of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources game division. This is the anal shmuck who discouraged 4 classes of 1st graders from picking the gray fox as the state mammal. This department includes the geniuses who established a 10 bag limit on white tail deer, then wondered why deer populations declined.
The unfair usurpation of the gray fox’s election as state mammal inspires me to write in praise of this fine canid. The gray fox is an handsome mammal. Describing someone as “foxy” is a blush-inducing compliment. The gray fox has a long history in Georgia, unlike the state insect, the honeybee, which is a non-native species. The gray fox has lived in what’s now Georgia for 2 million years, and a similar evolutionary ancestor (Urocyon progressus) lived here for millions of years before that. Fossil specimens of gray foxes have been found in north and south Georgia. Florida’s rich fossil record includes 55 museum specimens and countless others in the hands of amateur collectors. The gray fox is an excellent tree climber, explaining how it escaped from large carnivores during the Pleistocene. It is intelligent and far more adaptable than the Pleistocene megafauna was. Gray foxes range from southern Canada to Venezuela, and studies show they live right beside us. Scientists found gray foxes just as abundant in suburban areas as rural spaces, as long as wooded buffer areas are present. Gray foxes help reduce the number of mice in the environment that might otherwise invade our homes and shit in our food.
I’ve seen gray foxes quite often in my neighborhood, though not lately. They are the fastest runners I’ve ever observed. On 1 occasion I saw a gray fox carry a squirrel across my front yard. For years an old shaggy male lived in the vicinity of my house. I remember a rainy day when I was punching the heavy bag in my woodshed. A gray fox ran right by the open door. Years ago, while exploring an abandoned archaeological dig, I found fox scat containing mice skulls and blackberries. I’ve never seen a live bear, but I have enjoyed the presence of the gray foxes on many occasions.