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The Pika and the Fox

Two young fox cubs, pups, or kits were seen with their foxy mom, at 8,250 feet above sea level - somewhere in Montana. They were roaming around in a talus patch occupied by a small colony of American Pika; he pikas did not appear to enjoy the presence of this red-haired family!

Our goal is to be part of the American Pika Research Team in Bozeman,

I observed the young fox pups entering and traversing the interstices and crevices of the rocks. Pikas could be heard making their 'I'm Afraid Calls".

Mom fox caught a fat field vole and provided it to one of the pups. The other pup was playing with a yellow bellied marmot's leg, an animal they found or killed earlier? The red fox's resourcefulness has earned it a legendary reputation for intelligence. It is slinky and long legged and stalks its prey, much like a house cat. Their pupils are vertical, similar to a cat, helping them to see well at night.

The red fox's scientific name is Vulpes vulpes. A group of foxes is called a skulk or leash. A male is called a ‘dog fox’ while a female is called a ‘vixen’. Foxes can emit a ‘musky’ smell from scent glands at the base of their tail.

As the sun's golden rays painted the landscape with a golden hue, the pup's coat hairs (and the pika's coat too) appeared to glow a brilliant orange.

Pikas are herbivores and spend the summer and fall gathering plant material, fungi and other nutritional goodies. They harvest grasses, twigs, pine needles, and wildflowers that grow in and around the talus, in their high mountain habitat. Food items are stored in the pika's den (hay piles or hay stacks). While harvesting food, they are keenly aware of predators roaming their talus home. If a potential threat or visual disruption is observed, pikas use a series of unique calls to warn each other of the potential threat.

Jere Folgert

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