If you’re walking through Hemisfair late at night, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the park’s foxiest new residents, but only if you’re as quick and quiet as the canine-like creatures themselves.
Hemisfair has become home to a family of gray foxes, with park officials and local wildlife experts asking folks to let the critters be and appreciate them from afar.
“Over the years, it’s been fairly common to see two different kinds of foxes in Hemisfair,” said Geoff Baldwin, Hemisfair director of operations. “The ones that we’ve currently been seeing are gray, but this is the first time we’ve had a pair that mated, and then have kits. So we’ve got a mom and a dad, and their four youngsters, although the youngsters aren’t that young anymore.”
Despite the incongruity of cars whizzing by on César Chávez Boulevard, children playing at Yanaguana, outdoor diners and a nearby high-rise apartment building, the family appears to have made a cozy home within this urban landscape. They’ve been spotted by several residents roaming the park late at night, with pictures of the unit quickly circulating on social media.
“We just call them the Fox Family,” Hemisfair’s Director of Marketing Thea Setterbo told the San Antonio Report in a text message. “We do sing, ‘What Does the Fox Say?’ A LOT nowadays.”
The foxes are enjoying the urban jungle of Hemisfair, while also helping keep the local rodent population under control, said Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar.
“The [parents have] been around for a while,” Andujar said, estimating foxes have been spotted in the park on and off over the past five years. “I think they were living at one point under a deck, and then as people came back — they don’t like to hang out with humans — and so they moved.”
The location within the park where the foxes live is not heavily populated, Setterbo said, not near the playgrounds where children and families congregate. For the safety of the foxes and local residents, the San Antonio Report is withholding the location of the fox den.
“We just don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and try to catch them or play with them,” Setterbo said.
San Antonio Report photojournalist Nick Wagner caught images of the gray fox from a distant vantage point by using a remotely activated camera and flash. Those interested in catching their own glimpse are most likely to see the adult female out hunting, said Jessica Alderson, urban biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife. She warned against getting too close or trying to feed the foxes.
“We really want to discourage people from feeding them because what that does is it starts making it to where they’re more habituated to people, and then that’s where we end up having an issue,” Alderson said.
Wild animals such as foxes or coyotes that become accustomed to being fed by humans will begin to associate humans with food, and are more likely to approach humans, she said. Conversely, if a person is approached but doesn’t have food or tries to get away, the animal may become startled and attack.
“Enjoy them from a distance, because they will — especially when they’ve got babies — they will be protective,” Alderson said.
Because the foxes are actually quite helpful at keeping the wild rodent population down, there is no need to trap or move them, Andujar said. Michelle Camara, owner of Southern Wildlife Rehab, confirmed that urban foxes are quite common and can be helpful to the small ecosystems they inhabit.
“Leave them alone, let them do their own thing there,” Camara said. “They’re actually keeping rodents under control.” She said gray foxes even eat scorpions and roaches, “things like that. They’re just doing their job, basically.”