On its first day in a new domicile, the red fox at the Maine Wildlife Park buried its food in a secret hole in the ground, a gesture befitting the creature’s sly reputation.

On Saturday, Sept. 10 at 11 a.m., the new $60,000 fox exhibit opened to the public.

The space for a gray and red fox, who both joined the park as orphan pups, is ten times the size of their previous space, according to Curt Johnson, superintendent of the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray.

According to Johnson, the new fox exhibit is part of the park’s long-term goal of moving all of its animals into larger, more natural environments.

As with other of the park’s animals, the foxes were moved from a row of smaller cages at the entrance of the park, which are about 10-by-15 feet, or the size of a small bedroom, Johnson said.

The row of cages, that are still home for a porcupine, a fisher, and a skunk, are a throwback to the park’s early days in the 1950s, said Lisa Kane, natural science educator for the park.

According to Kane, the row of cages was built to please the public that brought animals that couldn’t be released in the wild to the park. During that time, Kane said, the park was a game farm that raised pheasants.

“We’ve made enormous strides from 50 years ago,” said Kane.

Many animals, including the mountain lion, coyotes and bobcats have been moved to larger, more natural habitats that provide the animals with sunlight, dirt and grass, and more room to roam.

According to Johnson, the space to roam is particularly important for the foxes, which require more space than other species. The red fox was brought to the park in 1997 and the gray fox in 2001.

So far, the gray and red fox appear to be adjusting well.

“They’ve been slowly meandering around the new space and appear to be enjoying it,” Johnson said. “It has to be quite a change from living in that (previous) space for years.”

According to Kane, the red fox is a common species, but the gray fox is exclusive to the south central parts of Maine.

Both species of foxes, she said, are legally hunted and trapped in Maine as well as in other New England states.

According to Kane, foxes are not aggressive to humans but can be aggressive with other foxes. Both are solitary animals, she said, and the gray fox at the park tends to be more timid. The gray fox also has the distinguishing talent of being able to climb trees vertically, Kane said, and the park plans to make it possible for the animal to demonstrate its climbing ability in its new home.

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