A red fox known as 15M in Colter Bay, Wyoming, was killed by National Park rangers this week, after a string of incidents caused by inappropriate human behaviouor.
According to the Jackson Hole News & Guide, rangers from the nearby Grand Teton National Park had been searching for the fox since last summer, who was identifiable by tracking tags.
“Fox 15M ate normal foods like ground squirrels and stayed out of trouble the first couple years it was on biologists’ radar but became dangerously habituated to people last summer,” writes Jackson Hole News & Guide reporter Mike Koshmrl.
“Jumping in an occupied golf cart, or jumping up on a picnic table with a family eating … that’s a super red flag for us,” Teton Park Science and Resource Chief Gus Smith was quoted as saying. “All summer we were trying to catch [15M] with a net gun.”
15M was also involved in an incident in which a wildlife photographer was allegedly documented using food to draw foxes closer, according to another article in the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
The article indicates that 15M learned to get fish guts from anglers, was potentially fed by wildlife photographers. It’s highly likely that 15M also received handouts from park visitors wanting to get a photo or interaction with wildlife, despite it being illegal.
According to Koshmrl’s article, 15M was the third fox killed as a result of being fed by people; it is also common for black bears to be killed as a result of feeding.
Koshmrl’s final paragraph speaks to the tragedy of this loss, caused by animal lovers, photographers and anglers:
“In the case of 15M the easy meals handed out by humans weren’t just a source of destructive nourishment for a single animal. Together with [his] mate, Colter Bay’s now-dead resident male fox raised a litter of four kits last summer.”
The desire for a moment of connection with a wild animal may be strong, but the consequences will always cost more than a photo or memory are worth.
Please note that The Fur-Bearers changed inaccurate pronouns in reference to 15M. These changes are marked with [hard brackets].