Red Fox

Red Fox

Photo copyright Robin West, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Of the classes of animals with which we share the earth, perhaps most easily noticed are the colorful, feathery descendants of dinosaurs as they fly through our fields and forests and alight on our backyard feeders. Next in our awareness may be the insects, although I imagine many of you try to keep your distance from them.

Of the mammalian species, most often we see those plant-eaters that are unfazed living close to the noise, quick movements and hard surfaces that characterize humans. Indeed, the presence of deer, woodchuck, squirrel, chipmunks, or raccoons is sometimes used by biologists as indications of habitats that are dominated by humans.

But there are other mammals in Somers that manage to stay out of sight even while living right around the corner. Have you ever caught a glimpse of a “cat” with a nose too pointy or a very skinny “dog” with legs too long and a tail far too bushy? You may have strained for a better look but it saw you first and quickly slips into the leafy shadows and is gone.

Had you the opportunity for a closer look you would have enjoyed a handsome animal with an auburn coat complemented by black “leggings”, a white throat and belly. The very tip of its bushy tail is also white as if dipped into a pot of paint. This is Vulpes vulpes, our native Red Fox. Although the fox may round out its diet with berries and fruit, it is primarily a meat-eater, hunting small game such as mice, rats and voles – anything up to the size of a rabbit. That diet makes it both friend and foe to the farmer.

Although earlier generations have extirpated most predators from our area, this relative of the domestic dog seems to be doing well. It is found over most of North America up into Canada and across Europe and Asia.

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