"Do you smell the skunk odor," said Phil. At first I thought I smelled coffee -- ever notice how some ground coffee smells just a hint like skunk spray? Then I thought he meant he or his dog Teak had been sprayed by a skunk. Then I sniffed the air, and realized it was a red fox that only moments before marked its territory just where we were standing.
Red fox breed here in mid-January to late-February. Fox communicate through a mix of vocalizations and scent-marking throughout the year. During courtship, right about now, their urine takes on a mildly "skunky" smell. It sure gets your attention, so must make a fox mate perk up. Once mated the female will set-up a maternity den, where she will give birth to 1-10 pups in about 8 weeks.
Yesterday, as I walked through an old gravel pit I watched a gorgeous red fox scurry across the open land. Four deer also skipped across the snow and headed to dense softwood cover along the edges. Fox thrive in this mix of open land, shrub thickets, sand banks and jumbled boulders, edged by woods. The sand and gravel excavation perhaps messed up the scenic landscape, but the wildlife seem plentiful.
Both the red fox and the eastern coyote are adaptable in their choice of habitat and food. Research shows that the larger coyote might out-compete red fox, and therefore influence fox survival and distribution. The red fox seems to be holding its own. A red fox is able to hear low-frequency sounds, such as meadow voles scurrying under the snow. With its keen hearing and taste for a variety of small mammals, birds, insects, and fruits, the red fox will likely continue to thrive.
Look and smell for fox -- 'tis the season.