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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, April 16, 2018

As throughout our natural world, all is interconnected so that what occurs for one species in a food chain ultimately impacts all the other plants and animals in that system.........Such is the case in Yellowstone Park in Wyoming where the re-introduction of the Gray Wolf in 1995 knocked back the Coyote population somewhat, enabling the red fox population to expand its numbers(Coyotes and Foxes are sympatric mesocarnivores competing for similar foodstuffs)............Such is "natures design", not intended to exterminate its creation, simply keep it in some rough stasis with predator and prey ebbing and flowing----- but not blinking out

An Interlude With Yellowstone's Haunting Mountain Foxes


1/18/2018; bySteven Fuller

Foxes were an occasional sight on the central Yellowstone Plateau upon my arrival here, though sightings have become more frequent in recent decades, perhaps as a consequence of the re-introduction of wolves. Which knocked back the population of coyotes which had been killing/eating the foxes.

I am endlessly fascinated by the dynamism of nature here; never is there stasis or equilibrium; what happens with one species affects another.

Now, any winter sighting of a fox with its plush winter tail recalls a high end downy winter sleeping bag, which I suppose when wrapped around a fox’s body while snuggled in a tree-well surrounded by insulating powder snow is quite cozy, particularly if you have a full gut after a successful day snagging voles who supposed themselves safe under many feet of overhead snow.   

Red, White And On The Prowl

One year, late in winter at mid-day, a fox routinely sat on the roof ridge of my house, presumably taking in the panoramic view.  The highway to Canyon had opened to the public for the spring season just that morning and the first local auto accident of the year occurred when a van—the gawking driver distracted by the sight of a fox atop my roof—ran off the road into a snowbank.

No one was hurt, it was the first of many similar mostly minor accidents that occur for similar reasons every summer in Yellowstone—of people extracted the extraordinary.

I too feel the magic that foxes exude as well as the charisma of the many other iconic North American predator and prey species among whom I live. All of us, great and small, wild and domesticated, are increasingly in the grip of the accelerating whirlwind of climate change. All our lives will be profoundly changed in ways none of us can anticipate.

Steven Fuller's photo, "Dancing Foxes," which won him an award

For the four and a quarter million visitors from all round the world the sight of a fox, buffalo, or grizzly bear may be the only real experience of these creatures in their lives.

Who can fault them their distraction? None of us, and I include myself, is at our best when in the tourist mind set. I just hope they don’t distractedly crash into me when I am on some mundane domestic mission.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is native to North America and Europe, though I would hazard to guess too many may not realize, as biologists point out, that the majority of foxes seen in the eastern U.S. and plains states are descended from foxes introduced to our continent in the 18th and 19th century. The purpose was supply animals for horseback fox hunts and fur farms.--NOTE THE AUTHOR IS NOT CORRECT WITH THIS STATEMENT AS RECENT RESEARCH RE-AFFIRMS THAT THE MAJORITY OF RED FOXES IN NORTH AMERICA ARE INDEED OF AMERICAN ORIGEN,,,,,,,,,,,,,,WHILE SOME "REDS" WERE INTRODUCED FROM EUROPE, THEY WERE NOT AS SUCCESSFUL PASSING ON THEIR GENES-BLOGGER RICK

Recent research in Yellowstone suggest that the foxes resident around Canyon are “mountain foxes” (V. v. macroura), a subspecies that dwell at higher elevations in a few places in the Northern Rockies. Genetic analysis will tell.

It’s tough for a predator to sustain herself in winter. The cold and the heat sucking wind coupled with the exertion spent to make way through deep snow requires a reliable minimum caloric intake. Poor hunting leads to early death.

A Yellowstone fox in twilight trots toward the sound of stirring voles. Photo by Steven Fuller

At rest the voles are warm within hollow nest balls of dried grass that are further insulated by the surrounding snow field. They dwell in what's called the subnivean layer. 

The fox listens to the rustle of the vole amid the crispy dried grasses of summer, or maybe to the sounds of delicate crystals of hoar breaking as the vole moves about down below. Or, perhaps the fox picks-up on conversations among members of the vole community, or maybe on just the sounds of the vole talking to himself.  Every sound enables the patient predator to triangulate the exact location of its’ prey until… Boom!, something big with lots of teeth bursts through your ceiling. End of story. 

This sequence of photos shows a fox playing hide and go eat with a vole. The fox’s acute sense of hearing is focused on the faint sounds of a vole busy under several feet of snow in the subnivean zone, that airy interface between the bottom of the snow pack and the relatively warm earth below

In myriad ways, we are all predators and prey. For now I eat you, in time you will eat me, and so the wheel goes round.

Click here to read all of Steven Fuller's journal entries for "A Life In Wonderland" and this Mountain Journal profile of Fuller, "Twilight of the Winterkeepers

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