The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you. Snails, fish, insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers. All are worthy additions to the bucket. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.Gray fox are found over much of north America and often share the same habitats as their red cousins. We have both species here in mid Missouri, but I see far more reds than grays. On the rare occasion that I do catch sight of a gray, it's usually no more than a fleeting glimpse as it streaks across the road in the headlight beams of my truck or as a road kill along the side of the highway. I think I can count the daylight sightings on one hand with fingers to spare. In this area they seem to prefer dense thickets and other places where there is heavy cover and they also seem to be mostly nocturnal, even more so than the reds so sightings are rare. Like most wild things they are facing a steady decrease in habitat and a steady increase in danger as more and faster highways crisscross their territories. They compete directly with the red foxes and coyotes for food and den sites and they are also preyed upon by man, bobcats, and coyotes alike and I expect that Great horned owls probably find them delicious too, especially the pups. And as I mentioned above, many fall victim to the endless parade of automobiles that constantly roar through their living rooms these days. But in spite of all that they seem to be holding their own in these parts.
A few days ago Mrs. burntout and I were very surprised to see one cross the field just behind the house. He wasn't wasting any time and he was there and gone before we had time enough to get any photos. We were thrilled to see it but were quite disappointed that we weren't able to get any pics of the illusive animal. We knew we had missed a rare opportunity and very possibly not get another.
So it was a very happy surprise Sunday as I was sitting on the back porch watching the birds and chit chatting with one of my daughters when I happened to look up to see one step out from behind the barn and stand there looking out across the field
Luckily I had my camera already in hand and snapped a quick picture of it before it headed out across the field. I ended up getting several pictures before he was out of sight, but unfortunately none of them are very good. I guess I was so excited and surprised at seeing it that I had a case of buck fever or something similar. But whatever, I'm posting a few of them anyway, obviously not for their photographic qualities but simply because I'm not likely to get any more, at least not anytime soon.
He had just stepped out from behind the barn in this pic and stood for just a few seconds before taking off at a fast trot across the mowed area around the barn and headed for the weedy field just a few yards away.
Here he had already entered the weedy field and slowed down to search for insects or rodents or whatever else he might find there. The field doesn't have much vegetation at this time of year but he almost disappeared in it in spite of the sparse cover. A few weeks from now he'd be invisible in there.
A couple of years ago I planted some grapes on the far side of the field, and I've been keeping that area mowed since then. As soon as he stepped out of the weeds he immediately broke into a fast trot again and headed straight for the vines. No grapes yet of course but I can't help but wonder if he will be keeping an eye on them in the future. As far as I know we've never lost any grapes to foxes but I would be surprised to find that they wouldn't eat them. They're certainly not loathe to eating fruit as I often see persimmon seeds in their scat. They seem to be completely omnivorous and readily eat whatever is available, whether it be insects, birds, rodents, or plant material. I've also heard, via my grand-daughter, that they are particularly fond of gingerbread men and will go to great lengths to get one.
He trotted straight down the row of grapes, with my pics getting progressively worse as he did so, and then made an abrupt left turn and silently disappeared into the thicket just adjacent to the mowed area. It appeared to me that he knew exactly where he was going. I suspect now that he has probably spent more time around here than I know, under cover of darkness until just recently.
I've been referring to this fox as a he, although I can't tell for sure whether it's male or female. I'm guessing that this is a dog fox, and that the reason he's breaking his nocturnal habits is that he's working overtime to find enough food not only for himself, but for his mate as well, who is most likely nursing a litter of pups. The timing is right and that seems the most logical reason that I'd see him out in the open, during daylight, twice in one week. I could be wrong of course, it happens.........
Sorry for the fuzzy pics, I wouldn't post them except for the fact that they may well be the only ones I'll ever get. But I'll be keeping a sharp eye out for him in the future in the hopes that he will return. I'll also be looking for signs of an active den site whenever I'm out in the surrounding woods. I've found a couple of red fox dens over the years but never one belonging to a family of grays. I imagine the signs of an active den would be very similar in both species though, with bits and pieces of bones, feathers and fur scattered around the entrance area. And fox urine has a pretty strong and noticeable odor too so my nose might tip me off as well.
That's all I've got for now. Your turn. I'll be here until around noon, CDT, and then gone for a few hours but will check back when I return sometime in the evening.