The Food Chain!

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!


24 thoughts on “The Food Chain!

  1. Whoa…competing gangs eh? Hope their turf, aka your back garden area, gets abandoned. I found since I starting putting the clippings from grooming sessions in the compost bin, I don’t have so many lower ranking food chain visitors which suits me just fine.

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  2. Are we really at the top of the food chain? I get eaten alive constantly by bacteria, viruses, mosquitoes, and all kinds of other micro and macroscopic little creatures. And then there are bears and mountain lions. Perhaps the only reason we don’t have to worry about them is because they are relatively scarce and/or not hungry enough.

    But I’m with you about intelligence. We’re pretty smart about being human, but not so smart when it comes to being a rabbit, skunk, coyote, or anything else. Every creature is smart in its own way, so I doubt we possess the “highest” intelligence.

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  3. Good boy Ray for leaving when told. Maggie is the same, and we have always been glad she is not s ‘sweeper’ on our walks, though we are yet to find another canine to beat her in the sniffing stakes! Nice treats by proxy for the big guy. 🙂

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  4. Locally we have foxes and they do love a good squirrel dinner. I’ve seen them take one of my squirrels a few times. With me yelling that I feed that squirrel! Circle of life. I don’t like to see it but it’s necessary. I wonder if the human circle of life involves wars to reduce the population. We decimate ourselves. Don’t need foxes.

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    • Well wars now and then, and the right to carry firearms, are really important if the arms industry is to be kept “healthy”, so I guess the future of our species does suddenly becomes a matter of conjecture. The question becomes – can we control our population growth without a total annihilation? 🙂

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  5. Glad you found the dead squirrel before Ray did! Whenever we watch nature shows, if it is showing an animal being preyed on, I always feel bad for it. I know it is all a part of the food chain, but my heart just always goes out to the “little guy!”

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    • Good boy to “Leave it” Ray. Kali and I ran into a similar circumstance a few years ago except with a dying Deer who had, as we found out a couple of days later had laid down to die. The deer was lame and hobbled away as Kali and I unsuspectsntly walk by it. Kali was off leash as was our custom when we re-entered our property. Kali barked, ran towards the deer, I yelled “leave it” and we both scampered in the other direction away from the deer. Later that day I saw the deer laying in the same spot and the next morning it now lay dead.

      I think it’s a combination of training and instincts this “leave it” reaction. They seem to know it is best to heed our command for safety reasons.

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      • I find it fascinating that a “leave it” can sometimes seem to over-rule instinct. We’ve had occasions with Ray when we clearly don’t exist, and other times when he is very responsive. As you note, it is probably just a question of him evaluating the circumstances, and understanding our expectations.

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