Foxes poisoned at the Devil’s Dip in West Athens

May 7, 2010 § 4 Comments

Recovering grey fox used to live at or near the Devil's Dip creek. He was poisoned with strychnine. Photo: Valley Wildlife Care

It’s been a rough time for the diminishing grey foxes* of the Anderson Wash area, aka Devil’s Dip creek, in the West Athens District of unincorporated LA County. That they’re even around here is a welcome surprise to people who track the remnant wildlands of urban LA. That is, that they were even around, as it remains to be seen if any are left after this incident.

It turns out that three grey foxes – including a baby – died recently on the campus of Southwest College. Someone there called in a nonprofit wildlife rehab group, Valley Wildlife Care, to rescue and rehabilitate a fourth, a little male who was just taken off an IV and is “seizure free,” although continuing to suffer from minor neurological disorders. A big thank you to whoever at Southwest made the call, and to Valley Wildlife Care, which is volunteer-based and runs on donations.

Valley Wildlife Care have determined that the foxes fell victim to secondary poisoning – their prey, gophers, were poisoned with strychnine, so they got it too. That’s gotta be a painful way to go, folks. If you can’t bear to let your friendly (or aloof) neighborhood predators deal with the gophers, at least use humane trapping methods** – please! For those of you who don’t poison wildlife and are wondering why this happens, gophers are considered a lawn pest. We don’t know for certain who was passing around the poison, it is unlikely it was Southwest College, so hold the hate mail – but by all means let everyone in the area know that this practice needs to be abandoned.

The Anderson Wash/Devil’s Dip creek (photos above – click to see each image***), used to run approximately from Normandie and the 105 Fwy in a westerly direction – in the path of today’s 105 fwy, taking a turn to the south through what is today the Chester Washington Golf Course at Western and El Segundo and feeding the Dominguez Slough. I have seen middle-aged men light up with impish grins as they recounted tales of adventures in the Devil’s Dip (so named because they’d jump the banks on bikes “Evil Kneivel-style”),  of rafting in the rain**** and being attacked by red-wing blackbirds. Today, small, highly degraded reaches of this creek can be found at the golf course, and although the stream has been otherwise channelled and piped, there are funny little patches of habitat along a railroad ROW that parallels the 105, including a seasonally wet willow clump and coastal sage scrub. These little foxes are rocky burrow-and hollow-log dwelling tree climbers, so the remaining presence of the wooded creek and the rocky embankments of the RR ROW could be significant reasons they’ve survived. It’s amazing, really, that these otherwise forgotten areas continue to provide habitat to wildlife, and it is tremendously sad that this wildlife is then subjected to such an unnatural hazard as strychnine poisoning.

We don’t know if there’s still a population of grey foxes hiding out in the refuge of the Devil’s Dip, or in the embankments along the railroad – but one thing we do know is that Valley Wildlife Care will only re-release our little survivor locally if they know it’s a poison-free area.

*Not to be confused with the non-native red foxes that were imported and then proliferated locally – but are also probably not so common anymore.

**And for those of you who think you are being really responsible by burying the poison deep in the gopher’s burrow so that it “can’t get to other animals” like bobcats, consider that other animals – like burrowing owls – also colonize in gopher burrows.

***Help! If anyone knows how to use WordPress galleries let me know! The fox isn’t supposed to be in that set of images!

****I know you want to try this now, but please don’t!

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§ 4 Responses to Foxes poisoned at the Devil’s Dip in West Athens

  • Dan Cooper says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Jessica! Hopefully this will raise awareness of these animals which are somehow making a living in a tough environment. It’s remarkable they’re still left there, but shows that maybe with a little help, all’s not lost wildlife-wise in central/south L.A.

  • Arlene Hopkins says:

    Hi Jessica and/or Joe,

    Wondering what became of these foxes. Are they still living in the Devil’s Dip area?

  • Darryl says:

    I live near Devil’s dip for over 30 year’s,never seen any gray foxes,or scat.

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