Facebook Employees Rally Around Foxes—And Earn a Certified Wildlife Habitat!

from Wildlife Promise

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A family of foxes has made Facebook’s Menlo Park Headquarters their home (photo by Richard Zadorozny)

When strolling through the Menlo Park headquarters of the technological giant Facebook, one might expect to encounter packs of software engineers or herds of hackers, but a skulk of gray foxes?

Perhaps sensing the “friendly” nature of Facebook’s business, a family of foxes chose to raise their young in the Zen garden on the campus, and as a result added approximately 2,500 proud, adoptive parents to their skulk (yes, that really is the proper term for a group of foxes). The new family members? The entire staff at Facebook.

Following the antics of the adorable parents and their three pups on the FB Fox page provides a daily dose of cuteness, but even more heartwarming for me is observing how the employees have become caretakers to these animals. Wildlife in urban areas—and especially in the middle of a busy company office park—are often treated as pests and removed or killed. Instead, Facebook embraced having these wild creatures trotting along Hacker Road and lounging outside office windows.

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One of the facebook foxes strolls by the Sweet Shop on the campus (photo by Burhan Syed)

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Relaxing after a hard day’s work of posing for photos. (photo by Jeff Ferland)

In order to ensure the foxes remained safe and healthy, the facilities management team worked with local wildlife services and contacted researcher Bill Leikam (aka The Fox Guy), who gave a presentation to the staff. But the Facebook employees themselves took the extra steps needed to guarantee the wild creatures stayed wild and that this experience didn’t deteriorate into a petting zoo or the foxes receiving handouts from the ice cream stand.

Alexis Smith, a Facebook marketing team member who started the FB Fox page, also felt inspired by the staff rallying around the foxes:

“I loved how the foxes brought everyone together—that people cared that the animals made their home on our campus and that they merited respect from everyone.”

As is evident from the motto of the FB Fox page itself, “Please honor the MPK Fox—no chasing or feeding—just mutual respect.” Staff posted signs in the Zen garden asking people to keep their distance. An employee recently shared a photo of one of the foxes resting under his automobile, and warned, “Before you drive off, please check if there is a fox under or near your car.” Not the usual job duties that accompany working for a high tech firm, but these employees have embraced it.

Watch a video of the irresistibly cute pups playing made by Facebook employee, John Mendiola, a security systems engineer.

 

Reports of foxes at the campus had been circulating for about a year, but Jacqueline Rooney, who works in corporate communications, initially thought the sightings were the stuff of urban legends. “I didn’t believe we actually had foxes here until this family arrived and set up home in our garden—sightings then became pretty commonplace.”

The first sighting of the mother fox occurred right outside Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s office window—these foxes certainly know the right people to “friend.” Zuckerberg took a personal interest in the foxes, and his liking the FB Fox page resulted in thousands of followers being added in just hours. To date, over 17,000 people from all over the world tune in to see the latest adventures of the fox family—some from as far away as Pakistan and Afghanistan—and Alexis avidly shares the latest photo encounters and observations from the employees. For Alexis, her favorite fox moment came when she first viewed the pups, and the pictures demonstrate how easily it is to become smitten with these three “foxeteers” from observing them wrestle in the garden, chase each other’s tails, or nurse from mom on a public walkway.

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One of the adorable three “foxeteers” born and raised on the Facebook campus (Photo by Renee Glenn)

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One of the Facebook foxes sticking his tongue out for the camera (Randall Finley/wildlifist.com)

But perhaps the most endearing action shots involve what makes the animal distinct from its relatives. Although the gray fox is the most widely distributed fox in California, it possesses one unusual trait, as Tamara Eder, author of Mammals of California describes. “Truly a crafty fox, the Common Gray Fox is known to elude predators by taking the most unexpected of turns—running up a tree.”  The FB foxes dart up trees and climb up on the awnings above walkways, napping contentedly above people as they pass underneath.

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Gray foxes can climb trees and the Facebook foxes often climbed to the top of the walkway awnings to take a nap. (Photo by Joel Seligstein).

Much to the dismay of the FB Fox fans, Alexis recently announced that the foxes had moved from their den under the deck and dispersed, a post that met with much protest from employees and followers, who implored the young foxes to return. “Come back! there are plenty of great local colleges. I am not ready for you to be away from home,” read one.

Although the foxes have vacated their den now that the pups have grown, they have not left the campus entirely and regular sightings continue. Followers can take comfort in knowing that they will probably reuse the den for breeding next year, as researcher Bill Leikam points out. “Once the pups are gone from the area in which they were born, that particular territory is then available for the adults to return to their traditional den and have their new litter raised in familiar territory.”

When they return to raise a new family, the foxes will be pleased to note their choice of a home is now Ranger Rick approved! When I visited the campus last week, I presented Facebook with the National Wildlife Federation’s official Certified Wildlife Habitat® designation—they had certainly earned it by being fox-friendly. Alexis Smith, who grew up reading Ranger Rick magazine and inherited a love of the natural world from her parents, appreciated receiving the certification. “I was always extremely excited whenever a new Ranger Rick arrived in the mailbox.”

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NWF’s California Director, Beth Pratt (and Ranger Rick) presenting the Certified Wildlife Habitat sign to Facebook’s Alexis Smith in the Zen garden where the foxes raised their young (photo by Jacqueline Rooney/Facebook)

NWF’s Naturalist David Mizewkski, who oversees the Certified Habitat program, thinks the company and its employees have set a great example for what people can do for wildlife. “The Facebook foxes are a perfect symbol of the fact that the natural world isn’t just in faraway, exotic places. It’s all around us, sometimes literally right outside our doors. Good stewardship of wildlife habitat in our cities and towns means that all it takes to have amazing animal encounters is to simply get outdoors.”

The new sign is already on display in the Community Garden, a favorite hangout for the foxes. Our thanks to Facebook and their employees for lending wildlife a helping hand!

ethan avey

UPDATE JUNE 28:

The National Wildlife Federation made Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “happy!” He shared today on his Facebook page that “It makes me happy that we got our campus certified as an official wildlife habitat.”  I think it’s wonderful that even busy, genius, internet entrepreneurs take the time to watch wildlife. Thanks, Mark, for you and your employees showing how wildlife and people can coexist in an urban environment-and for all those adorable fox photos on FB Fox!

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Facebook’s founder and CEO watching the foxes on his campus (Photo courtesy Facebook)

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Certify Your Wildlife GardenWant to make a difference for wildlife in your yard, schoolyard, church, business, neighborhood, or community? Check out the NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat® program website or Facebook page.

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