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Fox kids make their appearance

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG A first wild turkey is a big deal, especially for an 8-year-old boy. The boy is Wyatt Brown, son of Tyson and Candace Brown of Reinbeck. Wyatt and his hunt mentoring father were up bright and early on the first day of Iowa’s youth turkey season, April 10, to watch as three tom turkeys came to the decoy setup at 6:40 a.m. Wyatt was one very happy little boy to take his jake tom turkey. Jake is a identification term used for sub adult turkeys. Longer tail feathers at mid fan is how one knows this tom was not yet an adult.

RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes) is a common dog-like medium sized predator in Mother Nature’s food chain system. This species has many canine features and some feline-like characteristics. On the canine side are its elongated pointed muzzle, large pointed ears which are usually held erect and forward, moderately long legs, a long heavily furred bushy tail, thick soft body fur. A cat-like adaption is the eye. The pupil is vertically elliptical which allows this animal to function nocturnally with ease.

It is called a red fox because of the rusty red fur color of its fur. Ear tips and legs are black. Throat and belly are white. Tail colors are also rusty red but always end with a white tip. Even the young kits will have a white tipped tail while their natal fur is more grayish at this point in their lives.

Mythology enters into what we think we know about foxes. Foxes have been portrayed as a symbol of lies and falsehoods. In Pliny the fox is a rascal. Aesop called the fox a sly, clever problem solver. All these mythical descriptions are human misinterpretations applied to the behavior of the animal as it goes about its life and survival. The fact that foxes have adapted and survive is a testament to their skills needed to survive in a hostile world of predator/prey.

Fox kits, or pups, are born after a 51 to 53 day gestation after the dog fox (male) and vixen fox (female) mated in late January to early March. Kits may number as high as 10 or as few as one. An average is four to six. So this family of five is very common. Male and female work together to hunt for and bring food to the young. Foods eaten my the adults may be regurgitated later for the young to eat. This passes important gut bacteria to the young when they begin to sample meat even though still dependent upon mother’s milk. Weaning takes place in six weeks. Regurgitated foods then become a main stay as the growing kits continue to grow. Kits will later follow the adults on night-time hunting forays to help learn the tactics and skills to find food.

Food types are a wide range of plant and animal matter. Obvious items on the menu consist of rabbits, mice, voles, birds, insects or even carrion. After a heavy rain when earthworms emerge from burrows, foxes will scarf them up. When fruits and berries ripen later during the summer season, foxes take raspberries and blackberries and other fruits. Foxes have also learned to raid gardens for cabbages and potatoes. On a farm, poultry outside may become an easy target.

The red fox species is native to North America that seems to prefer habitats north of 40 degrees N latitude. However, as an adaptable creature, it will live and survive in every available spaces where small rodent populations are likely. If you are out and about this month, a hike along a trail or even a drive in the country may reveal a den site where a fox plunges into the den entrance upon your discovery.

if so inclined, just wait a long time with camera or binoculars from a distance and the occupants of the den may emerge to provide a grand show of new animal life this spring.

EARTH DAY was celebrated this week. Without going way over board on what new trendy or politically correct actions some propagandists proclaim, I much prefer to stick to tried and true practical and economically viable actions that demonstrate good stewardship of all natural resources every day of the year. The goal needs to be to focused on common sense actions that help keep air, water and soil clean and healthy. When doing those things human lives depend on, people are all aware of how living involves trade-offs. Keeping an informed perspective of sensible conservation efforts goes hand-in-hand with reasonable regulations and continuing long-term stewardship of abundant natural resources.

An EAGLE FIGHT FOR FISH was a privilege for my wife and I last week. We had been on a hike along the bike trail eastward from Riverview Park. Along the route, the trail passes near a small pond adjacent to the Iowa River. A lady was enjoying her warm spring day fishing from the shoreline. The lady was not the only thing fishing. She had a front row seat on the action of eagle to eagle.

Bobbi and I observed over this site two bald eagles performing great aerobatic skills of dives and evasion of each other. Suddenly the ‘fish-fight’ became apparent as the chase was on as one eagle attempted to keep the fish in its talons while being vigorously pursued by another eagle. The eagle with the fish finally dropped its catch which fell back into the water. Eagle number two swung around quickly to pick up what was dropped. Well, the fish did not float on the surface. It swam deep. So the end result was that both eagles lost out on a meal. Eagles have no problem stealing food from another eagle if they can get away with it. In the natural world of tooth and claw or in this case beak and talons, eagle thievery is permitted.

WALLEYE season opens May 2nd on Iowa’s Great Lakes of Spirit Lake and East and West Okoboji. Walleye takings are open continuously on all other Iowa lakes and streams. At Iowa’s Great Lakes, walleye permitted catches are for fish under 17 inches and only one walleye longer than 22 inches. The protected slot limit of 17 to 22 inch fish must be returned to the lake water. Fishing can be a fantastic way to be outside to enjoy fresh air and solitude. Walleye can be caught in the Iowa River. Just ask a dedicated fisherperson at Three Bridges County Park if it is possible. The answer is yes.

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Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96,

Albion, IA 50005.

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