This past Sunday morning started off as routine. I leashed Ray and took him outside into our back garden just after 7:30am so he could take care of “needs” before I gave him his breakfast.
(He is always leashed when he goes out but, if the garden is clear of potential problems, then I let him off so he can wander around at will and sniff along the base of the fence and anything else that gets his attention. He has been “skunked” once, which is why these precautionary measures started, and we now have foxes and coyotes behaving like rival gangs as they both want to own the area! Better safe than sorry!)
We went down the few steps from our back porch, and turned onto our patio which had received a light covering of snow, when I saw a bunch of dead leaves … surrounded by footprints … large footprints … bigger than Ray’s footprints! As fast as I was “processing” the footprints, Ray was moving towards the dead leaves, and then the picture was suddenly clear.
“Leave it buddy!” (Ray backed away).
The bunch of dead leaves was not that at all, but rather the carcass of a well gutted squirrel. I again looked at the footprints, and would surmise that it was either one very excited animal given the amount of prints, or perhaps there was more than one? What was it though?
The snow was about 2-3cm/1″ thick, and the temperature was hovering close to 0C/32F, so it could possibly have been a fox or two. Their prints are usually smaller than Ray’s, but the snow could have melted a little around the impression therefore making them bigger. It could also have been a coyote given the size of their feet!
Our garden was totally fenced in when Ray came to live with us, but we have recently learned that both foxes and coyotes can be remarkable fence climbers! So … what was it?
I am leaning towards a fox or two. We know that we have a few in our area, and saw one in our driveway last Saturday. The foxes tend to disappear as soon as the coyotes move in, so seeing that one in our driveway would suggest no coyotes in the immediate area at that time.
The whole survival routine going on around us is quite brutal, but also quite predictable. We had rabbits well into the winter, but they slowly disappeared when we started seeing foxes. The foxes start disappearing when the coyotes move in. When the coyotes eventually move on, either the remaining foxes or rabbits will become active again … and so the cycle continues!
I have often questioned whether our species is really the most intelligent on the planet (there are lots of circumstances that may suggest otherwise), but I do take comfort in knowing that we, as a species, are at the top of the food chain!