Friday, February 25, 2005

On the Trail of the Fox

At around 6 this morning, just as it was starting to get light, I was sitting on the front porch and saw something small and quick coming down the road. At first I thought it was a cat, then, as its head seemed a very strange shape, I suspected aardvark. But as it got closer I could see that it was a fox carrying a rabbit. When it was nearly in front of the house, at a spot where I couldn't see it, but where it couldn't run away because of the house across the street, I stood up. It must have heard me, because at that point it turned around and headed back up the road, veered off at our driveway, and travelled across the yard and back into the field, what we call the first field. I tracked it later in the morning, but as it was I had a very nice look at it as it went by.

The fox was not large, although its feet are. The mark of a gallop gives an indication of the size--the mark is not quite 40 cm. (16 inches)long in total.

At this point in the winter I am usually suffering from pretty serious track fatigue--I can see the canid tracks all over the place, but am no longer confident saying here a fox, there a coyote, and that's the neighbour's dog. But here was my chance for refreshment.

Fox stride. You can see the drag marks left by the rabbit it was carrying.

I know that these are fox tracks, and nothing else, because I watched them being made! When it was light, and warmer, I followed the tracks across the yard and into the field.

Fox trail through the yard.

I have made claims in this blog before about the dietary habits of foxes. Watch out for that. Amateur naturalists love to generalize from particulars. Particulars, especially particular animals, do not generalize well. Last year I found so many rabbit stomachs left over from fox meals that I decided that foxes, as a rule, leave the stomach. I followed this trail to see if I could see whether this rabbit was to be eaten or cached, and if eaten, would this fox follow the rule.

A profusion of tracks, a couple of lengths of intestine, a clump of fur.

No stomach! Oh well, maybe this time I'll learn not to generalize.

I followed on as best I could, lost the trail and picked it up again, in the far field. Had two foxes enjoyed the rabbit together? There was some suggestion that they had, but the tracks were such a mess I couldn't be sure. But they had definitely gotten together later in the far field. Though what they were up to I couldn't say. Mousing? Caching? Loving? Dancing?

Foxes dance in the moonlight.

I'd come so far already that I headed over to the ATV trail in the far field to head home via the walk. The whole of the far field and the scrape was littered with deer tracks. And there was another set of tracks, one I haven't seen before this year.

Weasel Tracks.

No comments: