Monday, October 28, 2013

What the Fox Says

Many of you have probably seen the most recent YouTube sensation, "What Does the Fox Say?" by Ylvis, that poses the question, "What does the fox say?" Well, we here at Nature Net decided to take the question seriously and find out!

Red foxes (the most common variety of fox in the world, as well as the species that resides here in Madison) are actually very vocal animals. It is sometimes difficult to know what they sound like, though, because they're nocturnal and make a variety of noises. They yip to each other, which can sound like dogs barking, they call out and can be mistaken for owls, and they even scream when there is trouble, though very few people would assume that a scream in the night was actually a fox! To hear their calls and become familiar with them, you can watch this helpful video below and become an expert in what the fox says.

Besides making all kinds of noises, foxes have extremely good senses of hearing and smell. They will sometimes eat fruit or insects, but in the winter they hunt small mammals under the snow. In this video, a fox stalks its prey by listening carefully and when it pinpoints the mouse under the snow, it pounces head-first!
Red foxes reside here in Wisconsin with us. There is a family that lives in Warner Park on Madison's North Side; if you enter Warner Park through the meadow, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the kits playing in the spring or an adult fox hunting in the winter.

One of Warner Park's Foxes
Fox Footprints
These cute creatures do not hibernate in the winter, they just become more active during the day (diurnal) and hunt mammals more frequently instead of eating berries. Foxes are also scavengers, which makes them well-suited for urban living! When the snow starts to fall this winter, head over to Warner Park and see if you can find signs of the foxes. Even though they are very stealthy, they still leave footprints in the snow. Their footprints may look like dog tracks, but a fox's feet are much smaller than a dog's. If you find some tracks, make sure you look at the size to help you determine the species.

The UW Fox
Warner Park isn't the only place in Madison with fox residents, lately. In the last two weeks, a red fox has been spotted several times on the UW-Madison campus! The UW Police Department has been posting updates about the fox on their Twitter feed, and
 last night a student was able to take a picture of the elusive creature. Maybe this fox was once a kit in Warner Park. Wherever he came from, it looks like Bucky Badger might have some campus competition!

Now that you know all about the sounds foxes make, their hunting skills, and a few places they can be found in Madison, get outside and find one! There's nothing like seeing a graceful red fox race past you on a crisp autumn afternoon.

Good Luck!
Emma, Nature Net Intern

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