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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Finding the Foxes

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Our arboretum is home to many elusive creatures. While everybody has seen deer or even coyotes wandering around the arb at some point, there are several other beautiful species that are rarely seen during the spring, summer, and fall. Yet during the winter, if you walk along the Cannon’s bank, you will see the little footprints of nearly every species, even the rarely seen foxes of the arb!

While finding tracks in the snow may not be hard, it can be tricky to identify different species simply by their footprints. Here is a quick guide on how to identify fox tracks left in the snow: Foxes are canines so their prints will look VERY similar to those left by dogs or coyotes. They will have 4 toe pads and a triangular heel pad, but it won’t be a full circle like a cat’s, it will have an indent towards the back. The overall shape of a fox’s print will be oval in shape, as opposed to a cat’s more circular paw or a dog’s more elongated shape.

Once you’ve decided the footprint is some form of canine, here comes the hard part; the only difference between dog tracks, coyote tracks, and fox tracks is size. So this is where the measuring tape (which I’m assuming your brought with you on your walk through the Arb, I mean who doesn’t carry one with them at all times?) comes in handy. Red fox tracks are roughly 1 1/2 – 2 3/4′′ long, and 1 1/4 – 2′′ wide. Measuring tracks works best on fresh prints in snow that has not melted. Once the snow starts melting, the tracks will get distorted. The stride of a red fox will generally be 10” to 16”, but if the fox is running the stride will be elongated.

While many of us won’t get to see any of the beautiful foxes that call our Arb home, in winter we at least can see evidence of them. With a little practice, tracking can become an easy and fun activity.

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