Mariton: Adapting to Change

January 25, 2021

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Photo by Tim Burris/trail cam

Hunting or adapting?

I thought this Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) was hunting when I first looked at this trail camera photo, but now I’m not so sure.  There is a lot of gray on this fox, but note the white-tipped tail and the black “stockings”  to discern it from a Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus).  I’m still not sure that we aren’t witnessing hunting behavior, but something seemed odd and alerted my curiosity.  I finally realized that the branch this fox is looking under was  a new part of the landscape.  The fox’s body language may show it investigating the new obstacle.

Photo by Tim Burris/trail cam

The fox looks awkward traversing the new branch.

The above photo is interesting because it shows the same fox at the same time (12:44 p.m.) two days later.  After spending time reviewing the photos, I went back to the camera location to get a better look at the branch.  It fell right across the trail.  There was no way around, so animals had to go over or through.  So, I moved the limb to keep the trail active.

Photo by Tim Burris/trail cam

This is a different fox and very likely the other one’s mate.

Photo by Tim Burris/trail camera

Finally, take a look at the rhododendron leaves (Rhododendron maximum) in the above photos.  You can see the leaves are rolled up in the night photos.  This is an adaptation to decrease water loss during cold weather.  I checked my journal, and the temperature was in the low 20s F both nights .  If we had a photo taken when temperatures were in the teens (even during daylight) the leaves would be even tighter.