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Rutgers tracking foxes along shore, including Brigantine, for study on predator management
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Rutgers tracking foxes along shore, including Brigantine, for study on predator management

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{child_flags:top_story}Rutgers tracking foxes along shore, including Brigantine

{child_byline}CJ FAIRFIELD

Staff Writer

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BRIGANTINE — As the number of red foxes increases along the Jersey Shore, Rutgers University is studying to see whether it can find an alternative to simply killing the predators, while still protecting the shore birds they hunt.

Brooke Maslo, assistant professor in Rutgers’ Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, is conducting a GPS collaring project on coastal foxes from Sandy Hook in Monmouth County to Cape May to further understand the role foxes play in coastal ecosystems.

Maslo’s goal is to collar 20 beach foxes for one year. Collaring began in January. Currently, there are seven foxes collared, including two in Brigantine, one in Avalon and one in Barnegat Light, according to Christian Crosby, a student on the project who is getting his doctorate in ecology and evolution.

The collars have a self timer in them and automatically fall off after 52 weeks, Crosby said.

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“There is quite a bit of published literature on carnivores in terrestrial habitats, with the exception of beaches,” Maslo said. “Beaches are ecosystems that are dominated by ‘pulse’ resources, like wave cast carrion (whatever washes up from the ocean), nesting birds and turtles. How carnivores deal with such highs and lows is not really known. Carnivores on beaches also act as scavengers, and scavenging is an important ecosystem function.”

Many foxes in Brigantine live in the northern end of the city, which is owned by the state. Because the foxes prey on the endangered piping plover bird, and their eggs, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection traps and kills the foxes. Foxes are not trapped within Brigantine city limits.

With foxes generally moving at night, Crosby said, their locations are tracked every two hours from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The project came about after there was an interest in what effect animals have on their beach prey, like birds and turtles, and what those interactions look like.

“This could help minimize both state efforts and the number of foxes being taken out of their landscape to (increase) conservation goals,” Crosby said. “This could get biodiversity up in the area, and biodiversity includes everything.

“Foxes are kind of newer to New Jersey; they came in about 300 years ago,” he added. “The animals here don’t know how to react with them due to lack of coevolution. We’re trying to figure out how many foxes need to be taken out and how to be more efficient in that effort without ruffling any feathers.”

No foxes will be harmed in the Rutgers study.

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Contact CJ Fairfield:

609-272-7239

Cfairfield@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPress_CJ

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