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Canines at the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary

Canines at the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary range from our guard dogs, foxes, wolves, wolf hybrids and coyote.

Livestock guarding dogs
Used for thousands of years in the Old World, livestock guarding dogs in the U. S. have proved to be a low-tech, cost-effective, generally non-lethal means of livestock predator control. It's estimated that U. S. sheep growers yearly lose 5 - 10% of their animals to predators of all kinds. Ironically, pet dogs are the top predators on California livestock.

In 1976 researchers at Hampshire College in Massachusetts placed 650 livestock guarding dogs on ranches in 35 states. Carefully maintained statistics show that rancers rated their dogs 74% effective in reducing predation in flocks. Guarding dogs are raised with the animals they are to protect. Their behavior warns off would-be predators. The dogs at the zoo are Canis familiaris.

Anatolian shepherd dog Annabelle came to the zoo in December 2007 as a donation from Goat Central.

Marcus (photo to follow)
Marcus has joined Annabelle. The Akbash breed is an excellent guarding dog and has been used by american ranchers to ward off bears and coyotes.   He resides with Annabelle in the pasture area.

Red fox [Vulpes vulpe]

The fox in the sox
From Aesop to Dr. Seuss, the fox has been celebrated in song and story. Members of the dog family, foxes are intelligent opportunists. Primarily predators, they'll also raid gardens and won't resist the temptation of domestic fowl and eggs. Males are called the dog and females the vixen. Foxes mate in the winter and young are born in spring. California has native red and gray foxes, as well as the tiny endangered San Joaquin kit fox. All red foxes have white-tipped tails.

Foxes (who don't really wear sox) are quick and elusive and can climb and dig efficiently. Note that the pupils of their eyes, like a cat's, are vertical slits.

Isabella, Mojo and Mindy
In May 2001, the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary received 4 beautiful red foxes (three since passed) from a licensed animal dealer who raises animals for the entertainment industry. The problem was that they were born without a movie set on which to star. Even if there had been a production that needed foxes, they would have been unwanted once the film was finished, as are hundreds of animals that are used as disposable actors. Here at the zoo, they have the choice if and when to give a "performance." There are several different color phases of the red fox: red, silver and cross. All red foxes have a white-tipped tail. Isabella is an example of the cross phase with red fur and a cross of darker gray fur down her back and legs. The red fox can have red, gray or silver-colored fur in the wild or many color variations if they are bred on a fur farm. Fox language consists of a variety of calls, from shrill shrieks to barks.  Mojo and Mindy came in 2011, from wildlife care facilities, unable to be released back into the wild.

Living double lives ... Wolf Hybrid - [canis lupus x canis lupus familiaria]
A wolf hybrid is a cross between a wolf and a dog. They are beautiful, stong, independent and inquisitive.

Generally, animals with a higher percentage of wolf DNA have more wild traits - they are adept at escaping, destructive to households and hard to housebreak. They usually make poor watchdogs because they are shy of strangers.

Hybrids are territorial and may kill trespassing dogs. Some are predatory toward small pets or even children. While there are successful human/wolf relationships, more often the needs of both are not met and the hybrid is perceived a "problem."

The animal may go through a series of owners and ultimately be euthanized because humans have been unable to cope with behavior that is natural to this "half-wild" animal.

Wolf hybrids living at the zoo are Lincoln and Kya

Wolves: Red Riding Hood's friends Yucca
This sensitive, family oriented, intelligent animal is extinct in most of the U.S. and is threatened in its last refuges. Wolves cooperate with pack members to make a living as predators of large hoofed animals. Sophisticated social structures and complex communication techniques make for strong bonds within the pack. There is a dominant, or alpha male and female in each pack. Rivalry, often subtle, for alpha status in the pack is an ongoing part of life as a wolf. Dominant animals frequently reinforce rank through ritual displays.

Folk tales and popular fiction helped form a poor public opinion about the Big Bad You Know What. Curiosity has added to the wolf's "bad" reputation because its habit of tracking and observing traveling humans has been mistaken for aggression. Healthy wild wolves are not a threat to humans. The wolf is the ancestor of the domestic dog.  

What kind of wolf is it?
There are two species of wolf in North America. The gray wolf inhabits Europe and most of North America. Because this animal originally had a wide geographical range, it is often called by such common names as "timber wolf," "tundra wolf," and "Arctic wolf." There are numerous subspecies of gray wolf, but they are properly identified by their Latin names (for example, canis lupus baileyi is a subspecies of Mexican wolf). Some subspecies are now extinct. Others are endangered. The smaller red wolf is found only in the southeastern United States. Once nearly extinct, this wolf has benefitted from Federal captive breeding and release programs. Recovery for the species looks hopeful.

Family life
Wolves have a single mating season about six weeks long in January, February or March. The alpha, or dominant pair of a pack will usually be the only ones to reproduce. Commonly 4-6 pups (or cubs) are born in April or May after a gestation of about 63 days. The mother nurses them for several weeks while pack members bring food to the den for her. Other wolves will "pupsit" when mother is out. Wolves may travel great distances to hunt. They can eat large quantities of food at one time, carrying a stomach-load back to the den or to cache sites. While the pups are still too small to travel, but old enough to need meat, hunting pack members will regurgitate food in response to their begging.

Dominance fight
The pack's social order is the guiding force behind nearly every action of a wolf. Since this order must be acceptable to each wolf, nature allows for it to be rearranged when needed. Folsom's pack had such a need, and in 1986 2-year old sisters Terra and Lupine forcibly deposed their mother. She refused to submit to them. For her safety she was removed from the pack, but later died from injuries received in the fight. Since that time, there have been other shifts of dominance within the wolf pack, which did not result in serious injury. In a wild pack, a deposed wolf might: 1) be killed; 2) submit to challengers and become the omega wolf; or 3) leave the pack and become a lone wolf. In captivity, options are limited. Pet wolves may engage in dominance struggles with assertive owners. Invariably, the human loses the fight, and is faced with destroying a once-loved friend.

Iris the Coyote
Iris, born in Spring 2003 shows the brains and caution that make coyote's such a successful species.

Coyote Maggie


What’s that smell?
Many animals claim their territorial boundaries by marking certain places with urine or droppings (called scat). Your dog leaves scent messages on bushes, rocks, posts and, of course, fire hydrants. To the dismay of their humans, cats may spray furniture.

The animals at the zoo, particularly bobcats, foxes, wolves and coyotes, scent mark too. Frequent cleaning by keepers to make exhibits smell good to human noses immediately triggers scent marking by animal tenants who rush to restore their territorial sign posts.

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