Tracking fox

Our wild neighbors.

Another snowstorm, on Sunday through Monday, left about 6-8″ of fresh, powdery snow across the fields and forests around us. On Monday morning I headed across the street and into the forest behind the house, as I have done so often over the years, bushwhacking up the steep hill through the woods. The forest is relatively young and open, having been logged periodically and well managed for a variety of species – pine, fir, hemlock, oak, maple, and more. I enjoy rambling through these woods, following the fading trails left by loggers, especially in winter – because the snow exposes stories of the wildlife that live here. It’s hard to see in the photo below, but the deer walked this path earlier than me, this morning.

The fresh snow clung to the trees, weighing down their branches. The firs and hemlocks provide cover for the deer, and I often find their “beds” under these snowy branches. This morning was no different, as I passed five or six fresh beds, depressions where the snow has melted under the warm bodies of sleeping deer. Close by, though, I was treated today to a new set of tracks, trotting through the snow and pausing to check a tiny underground burrow I’ve noticed for several years. The tracks did not enter the burrow – but I imagined the passing creature spending a few moments to sniff the burrow to see what might be living inside. It’s very hard to photograph tracks in snow, but I made an attempt below. Later examination of the Scats and Tracks handbook, back home, leads me to believe this hunter to be a red fox. They are a fairly common sight in our neighborhood; see my photo from last fall.

This fellow clearly only spent a few seconds in front of the burrow, then stepped and slid his way down the steep hill in search of other opportunities for breakfast.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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