Hard times in the snow moon

This red fox has taken up residence near the author’s house in Sault Ste. Marie. Photo by Tom Pink

This morning when walking out in the dark to push aside the night’s accumulation of snow, I was not surprised to see red fox tracks in the driveway again.

I think I’ve mentioned before in this space that I see the tracks on a weekly basis, at least, and every couple weeks we’re lucky enough to see the fox itself – or two, as we did a couple weeks ago – running down the sidewalk or looking for food in the backyard.

Seeing fox isn’t so unusual if you live in the country, but we live on one of our city’s main streets. My theory is that our healthy population of coyotes outside of town has pushed some fox into town, where they’re biggest predator is an automobile and they are able to find plenty of food in the form of mice, bird eggs, untended garbage cans and even treats left out by residents.

This morning’s encounter with the fox trail was a bit different, however. The tracks went into the fenced backyard and around my frozen compost pile, then under my truck and finally to a snowbank next to the driveway where, well over two weeks ago, I’d dumped a quart or so of marinade and venison blood after I’d put the meat on the grill. The fox dug more than a foot into the snowbank to find that juice. It appeared that it licked up a good portion of the marinade/blood cocktail and even pulled frozen chunks of it into the driveway to eat.

As I moved down the block to shovel the porches of my elderly neighbors, I noticed the fox had inspected every one of their backyard bird feeders for scraps underneath. I’ve seen a fox licking up mayflies off the pavement under a streetlight, so it doesn’t surprise me that one would be scooping up spilled sunflower seeds. They seem to be very opportunistic.

In between shoveling, I saw the moon pop out between the lake-effect snow clouds and I remembered that Native Americans refer to February’s moon as the snow moon because the month is often the coldest and snowiest of the winter. It makes for tough times right now for northern Michigan wildlife.

I’ve seen some tough times myself, but as I continued moving snow I was thankful that I didn’t have to dig through snowbanks for bird seed and venison blood.

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