Posted in Mammals, tagged canada, dens, feeding, foxes, habitat, Mammals, nature, Nova Scotia, red fox, snowshoe hares, wildlife on June 9, 2010 |
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Red foxes are sometimes visible early in the morning as they return to their dens after a long night of hunting. Here in Cow Bay, I’ve seen them at dawn in my backyard, along Dyke and Cow Bay Roads and near Rainbow Haven Beach.
This morning some fox kits could be seen wrestling outside their den. They were born earlier this spring and appear curious about the big world beyond the fox hole. They were likely waiting for their mother to return from her hunt and are probably near the age when live food is brought back to the den for them to practice killing prey. If you’ve ever returned from grocery shopping to a house full of hungry teenagers, you can imagine their anticipation.
Recently I saw and heard a lone adult fox screaming loudly near the entrance to Rainbow Haven Park. Though ‘screaming vixens’ are known to announce their availability during mating season, this usually takes place in winter, so there had to be some other reason why it was screaming so loudly. Was it proclaiming its territory? Coyotes and bobcats will both compete with foxes for food. Residential development in the area is likely encroaching on everyone’s territory and food supply.
A quarter of a fox’s diet consists of invertebrates such as grasshoppers and beetles. They are omnivorous canids that will also eat berries, grass, mice, birds and hares. I’ve found caches of seagull and hare carcasses near their dens in past years. But a hungry litter of four to eight kits, that are regularly expending energy by wrestling, wouldn’t allow for too many leftovers.
However, the woods are full of creatures at the bottom of the food chain and these are reproducing as well. A vole scurried ahead of me as I was walking in the woods yesterday. This hare also leapt across my path. Considering how frequently small rodents and snowshoe hares are finding themselves on the menu of not just foxes, but coyotes and bobcats these days, I’m surely the least of their worries.
By August, the fox kits will have left the maternal den and be out on their own. Which should give their mother a nice long break as she’ll only have to hunt for herself. Until next spring.
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Tracks nearby reveal that this fox hole is in use again this year. I’ve seen fox pups playing in this area in seasons past, but not on this visit. There weren’t any seagull or hare carcasses outside the hole this time either, only a couple of seagull feathers.
Although skunks may sometimes inhabit abandoned fox holes, these are likely still in use by foxes. I don’t know if there were any foxes in this den when I photographed them last week. (I’m not sure if there were any atheists either, but apparently it’s quite unlikely). Fox dens are very deep with long tunnels and several entrances. Here’s another…
Foxes are nocturnal hunters that leave their neighborhoods to hunt. Their pupils are in the shape of ellipses which give them excellent night vision. This pupil narrows to a thin slit in the sunshine.
Last year I saw a fox in my backyard right next to my deck. It glanced up at me as I happened to look out the window at 5am. Soaked from the wet grass, it was probably heading home after a night hunting in my neighborhood. The numerous hares and ground birds that make nests in the vicinity would be very attractive to a hungry fox with a big family to feed. However, foxes are omnivorous and eat a wide range of foods: berries, apples, acorns, grasses, insects, birds and small mammals. Half their diet consists of mice.
Red Foxes are both beautiful and elusive, difficult to spot due to their careful manner. I’ve seen them the odd time while walking or driving in the local area in the evenings, as they wander through yards and across roads. They’re easily identified by their bright red fur, pointed snouts and sweeping tails.
These cautious creatures will relocate if their dens are disturbed. Last week, a fox den inhabited by six baby foxes was suddenly destroyed during the demolition of old school buildings in Cow Bay. Many of us were pleased to hear that the parents had managed to find a new home for their family in the surrounding area. This type of ready and quick adaptation is a sign that foxes will hopefully remain in our semi-rural neighborhoods for some time to come.
The image of a fox hole at top appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine’s Trail Tales.
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