The Fox and the Study Area

I’ve been itching to start the rounds in my study area again, but winter hasn’t set in and so there is no consistent snow on the ground.  One day its’ 50 degrees, the next a few inches of snow that melts off.  Last winter I began in earnest a systemic, almost daily, investigation of a specific area near my home.  Using tracking methods, I plotted out where the martens lived, the size of an ermine’s territory, the population of squirrels and voles and deer mice.

Vole bound.  You can see it's tail drag

Vole bound. You can see it’s tail drag

I followed a resident cougar who lead me several times to the end of her trail where a pack of wolves obscured her tracks.  One time at the end of the trail lay a dead deer, maybe killed by the cougar who was driven off her prize by the wolves.

cougar

So I’ve been content to lay out a camera bait trap and see who’s around.  Hunting season is still on, but the general deer season is over here and the quotas for elk and deer are very limited for the next month or two.  The animals will start to come down within the next few weeks as the weather turns and the traffic subsides.

Trapping season has started .  There are a few people who trap martens here.  Bobcat trapping season begins on the 15th.  For these reasons, I would never reveal where my camera traps are set, nor where my study area is.

After a week, I went to check my camera trap and was surprised to see a beautiful fox.Here is the link for the fox video.  You can see she’s digging for the deer liver I set in a covered hole.

And a few stills

fox

What a great tail

Red fox

Digging around for the deer liver treats I left

Another positive effect of having wolves in the valley is that they keep the coyote population under control, and by doing that, foxes are returning.  I’ve talked with some old timers here who told me that in all the time they lived here, they never saw foxes.  Yet I’ve seen them, or their sign, now every year. With fewer coyotes, there is room for foxes.

Fox on Beartooth Highway

Fox on Beartooth Highway

Using my study area last year, I began to notice the interrelationships of  wildlife.  Wildlife are all finely attuned to each other.  They know the comings and goings, the patterns of movement, the subtle changes. Even with this camera trap of covered meat, once the fox stole the food, the resident mother deer with her two fawns stopped bye and spent a long time smelling the empty hole and upturned dirt.  Then she walked over and looked at the camera.  Something was just not right for her.   I think she sensed this was a ‘human event’.

Nature is a dance, an interplay of relationships. As humans we’ve disconnected ourselves for so long from the dance that we are no longer  part of the music, no longer have a feeling for its rhythm.  My hope with this study area project is to wander again onto the dance floor and pick up, with some luck and intuition, a bit of the cadence and beat that wildlife so naturally swings to.

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3 Responses

  1. I saw a beauiful fox running across our neighbors pasture, then into our lower field last week. It has been about 2-years since I have seen one here on our property so I was pretty excited! It also had a georgeous bushing tail. I was unable to view your video, as for some reason I can’t seem to get any videos on FB to play on my computer for the last couple of weeks, yet YouTube, etc., works fine. Go figure :-(

  2. I was hiking in the Gallatins in late September. I was on a non-motorized road. In the middle of the road was a beautiful dead fox. When I examined it, there was a single bullet hole in its neck. Fox are considered ‘vermin’ in MT and WY. Some hunter had killed the fox for ‘fun’. We all have to keep quiet about these fox location sightings.

    • That just makes me ill. I was on a paid museum trip with Chuck one time, when we spotted a fox in a field, Chuck turned the van around so we could all get a good look, when a car stops, and a man runs out and begins clubbing the fox to death. That sure put a dampener on the trip. Chuck said the man was probably collecting fox pelts. I was just so disgusted!!!!!!!! Thought about that for days.

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