It takes a matter of seconds for residents here in the mountains to identify a fox. These small, doglike creatures stick out like a sore thumb as they roam above the now cold, white landscape in their pursuit of their next meal. Foxes are amazing creatures built for the hunt with numerous abilities that aid in survival. What are these abilities?
It’s not evident from a distance but if you’re privileged to come into close proximity, you would see foxes have vertical pupils. This allows them to see well in the dark as well as giving them a wider field of view, 200 degrees compared to humans at 180 degrees. Their eyes also have six to eight times more rod cells, allowing the fox to sense motion in the dark.
Foxes have quite the proboscis! They have a very keen sense of smell and have been known to find carcasses of livestock buried under deep snow and several inches below the surface. Their snouts are long and their noses are wet, allowing them to smell by dissolving the chemicals in the air and indicating the wind direction.
How about those ears? The ears of a fox can be moved independently to pick up the source of a sound and rotate to pick up sounds from the side and behind them. The fox has a chamber at each ear’s base, which they use as an echo chamber to detect these vibrations and pick up on low frequency sounds. They are known to use their keen sense of hearing before launching their jump, and works well when they are able to see their prey.
Foxes jump high to surprise their prey from above, a hunting technique called “mousing.” While studying their hunting techniques, researchers observed that foxes on the hunt tend to direct their jumps in a roughly northeastern compass direction, regardless of the time of day, cloud cover, or other factors that could affect how they perceive their prey. In a large majority of the nearly 600 attacks the scientists observed, were oriented in the same direction. They found that 74 percent of the north-east-oriented attacks were successful, while attacks launched in other directions had only an 18 percent rate of success.
Scientists believe foxes that are hunting small animals in high grass or deep snow are using the magnetic field to launch a successful attack against prey, a skill termed as magnetoreception. Utilizing the magnetic field as a type of range finder to measure distance to its prey, increasing the accuracy of their attacks when the prey is not visible to the eye.
This creature is proof that there are forces working with us, on our behalf, that are not always seen but can be felt and utilized in an amazing way. Nature has many mysteries we have yet to find and experience, each one unique and splendid.
Image by Jackie Woodcock