Birdshot and backlashes

by Bob Cary

Bre’r Fox did not come by his reputation for slyness by accident. This crafty hunter is one mammal the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has no worries concerning its becoming an endangered species. The fox has the ability to adapt to almost any environment. It does quite well here in the northern forest .<BR><BR>The living history of our forest was starkly revealed last week with the first tracking snowfall of the winter. It was there for anyone with legs to walk and eyes to see. And the small, doglike, pointed tracks of the red fox were evident, along with deer, moose, rabbit, wolf and marten tracks. But fox were the most numerous.<BR><BR>Because fox furs do not bring much of a price these days, trappers are not seeking them. Foxes seem to understand this and are quick to take up abode near those humans who seek them no harm. Along with feeding whitetail deer, some folks put out offerings of meat scraps which not only attract foxes, but also marten, fisher and ermine. <BR><BR> Foxes are omnivorous, eating a variety of food. They hunt rodents such as rabbits, mice, voles and squirrels. They will also take grouse and other birds if the opportunity presents. In season, they are apt to eat a variety of fruits and insects. In farm country, they are notorious for feasting on poultry. And they have been trapped for centuries; still their numbers never seem to greatly decrease.<BR><BR>In some parts of the U.S., fox hunting is a popular sport. In open farm country, foxes can be tracked successfully in snow by gunners wearing white coveralls. For some reason, keen-eyed foxes do not focus well on hunters clad in white and it is possible to stalk them. Some hunters use predator calls which imitate the squeal of a rabbit, drawing foxes within gun range. And in some places, foxes are hunted with long-eared hounds bred for the work. Foxes are considered predators. A predator is any creature which may devour another bird or animal of which humans may have some use. <BR><BR>In England, just this fall, the British Parliament outlawed fox hunting with hounds and horses after considerable controversy and debate. For centuries, English gentry rode horse to packs of baying hounds, over hedges, through woodlands, dogs finally bringing the quarry to ground. Arguably, it was not much fun for the fox.<BR><BR>For the Brits in their bright red coats, it was an exciting adventure riding powerful horses bred for the hunt. It was also a means the Brits used to sort out and select the men who would eventually lead other men into battle on horseback, before warfare became motorized and less personal. <BR><BR>But no more. Although some of the gentry claim they will continue to ride with hounds, Princess Anne included, law or no law, the era of the country gentry on a dashing steed has gone into history. <BR><BR>So is the business of breeding and raising hunting horses, also the haberdashers who furnished the red jackets and kennel owners who raised hounds. A burgeoning fox population will now need be controlled by other means, probably with traps or poison to alleviate predation on farm poultry. But this will raise little concern. <BR><BR>Terminating British fox hunting probably had more to do with class warfare than any particular concern for foxes. It is something like the geese in Rochester, Minnesota. There was great concern to protect those geese until they became extremely numerous and turned into intolerable nuisances, eating lawns and flowers and pooping on walks and autos. Still, many folks in Rochester, who insist on the DNR taking measures to eliminate surplus geese, do not want them shot. Get rid of them by any means except shooting. <BR><BR>It has been suggested that perhaps 50 or 60 timberwolves could be live trapped and shipped to stock the Rochester Parklands; but we know from up here, they might prey on pet dogs and ignore the geese. Besides, just having packs of wolves running loose in Rochester would drive most of the population nuts However, it might be interesting just to watch.<BR><BR>In the meantime, red foxes are doing just fine in northern Minnesota and across most of the nation. And no doubt in Great Britain, too.<BR><BR> <BR><BR>