Virginia Tech Researchers Seek Landowner Help with Gray Fox Project

Photo: Gray fox in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Gray fox populations across North America have been declining over the last two decades. There are no published studies on gray fox population status in Virginia, but researchers, biologists, naturalists, hunters, and trappers from the state have noted, anecdotally, a decline in sightings, vocalizations, and camera trap photos over the last decade.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is funding the Virginia Gray Fox Project, which is being conducted by Dr. Marcella Kelly and Ph.D. student Victoria Monette of Virginia Tech. The primary goal of this project is to map the current distribution of gray fox across the state of Virginia and to assess the evidence for decline using past, historical camera trapping from around the state. To accomplish this, the researchers will conduct a state-wide camera trapping survey. They are looking to survey areas where foxes are and are not found, and cover a variety of habitat types (suburban, urban, forest, pasture, etc.).

To conduct such a large-scale survey, the researchers are hoping to enlist the help of volunteers that:

  • Have existing trail cameras on their own property, or
  • Are willing to set and monitor project cameras (if available) on their own property, or
  • Are willing to allow the researchers access to their land to set up additional cameras.

Volunteers will be expected to set the cameras according to specific protocols to standardize data collection and will need to check cameras periodically (every two weeks) to ensure sufficient battery life and proper camera function. The camera survey will cover the state over the course of three years. For the 2024 field season (spring, summer, and fall) the project is focusing on the Appalachian Mountain region.

If interested in participating in assisting the Virginia Gray Fox Project, please email Victoria Monette at [email protected] or leave a voicemail with Dr. Kelly at 540-231-1734.