The red fox combines a cute face with lethal cunning.

The red fox combines a cute face with lethal cunning.

Red foxes work in teams to get food

Lawrence Woodall is a long-time naturalist who lives in Port Hardy. This column describes his experiences with the read fox who surprisingly is not a solitary hunter.

From native North American legends to Aesop’s Fables the red fox is cited for it’s intelligence and beguiling cunning. At the heart of these tales is the fox that employs a extensive range of strategies to fill it’s dinner plate with a wider variety of pickings than its cousin, the wolf.

The primary diet for fox is meadow voles, but they also have a vegetarian bent, and will scheme to great lengths to get what they want. The old fox in the chicken coop scenario was, and still is, a security systems issue as the fox continues to thwart the efforts of man’s intellect to feed upon eggs and chickens. Basically they eat just about everything.

Despite what many books say, the fox is a social animal and does hunt in groups.

It was in the early nineties that Mary our camp cook was preparing some pies for the evening meal. She had been placing them on the counter by the window to cool off. Now Mary was just 4 foot nothing, but you didn’t dare wander into the cookhouse in between meals. Your ears would bleed from the verbal assault. It just wasn’t worth it.

Cam and I had just wandered in from our zones that day and were lazing about the main camp house. It was mid-morning when two foxes appeared and sauntered over to the cook house and stood in the doorway. We guessed that Mary finally noticed the two critters when we heard a shout laced with a liberal dose of soap mouth lubrication. The fox didn’t budge during the shouting until Mary took chase. It wasn’t until all appeared calm that Cam noticed a pair of fox scampering down a wood pile by the window with pies in tow. At this point we also noticed there was nobody else around and it was best to leave before we received the brunt of Mary’s acid laced tongue. This was a game plan by the foxes as two took Mary’s attention while the other two stole the pies.

This wasn’t a new insight. Our beagle Ranger, all energy, very little strategic presence, would be visited throughout the winter by the same bunch of foxes. Ranger was on a long clothesline that gave him a range of about 100 feet.

It was Ranger’s first winter with us. On a early evening, when our attention was drawn to his continuous barking, we noted several foxes near the end of the clothesline which Ranger would fly out to. The foxes moving just out of range. Our attention quickly returned to the doghouse where several more foxes were raiding Ranger’s dog dish. Of course Ranger would run back scattering the foxes, only to have the ones at the end of the line come back into range causing him to run back and forth until his dish was empty.

Foxes just don’t work in unison when it concerns domestic take out. I observed the same efficient hunt strategy in the wilds watching two foxes working working together to bring down a snowshoe hare. A cute face paired to lethal intellect.