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Red Fox Trail

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A majority of you nailed yesterday’s Mystery Photo! There are several hints in the tracks that help to identify the red fox that made them. One is the straightness of the trail pattern. This is due in part to the fact that red foxes “direct register” when walking. Their hind feet fall directly where their front feet were placed — each track represents where a front and hind foot has been placed. This creates a relatively narrow, straight trail pattern. (Domestic dogs often ramble to and fro, not in a direct, straight line like a fox.)

Much of track identification involves the process of elimination. The presence of nail marks and the fact that you can draw an “X” between the toe pads indicates that it is a canine, limiting the choice in the Northeast to domestic dog, red or gray fox, or coyote. A diagnostic trait is the impression of the metatarsal pad (behind toes) which often appears as a straight or boomerang-shaped bar on the front foot track. (It is much less obvious in hind foot tracks.) When a red fox direct registers, placing its hind foot on top of its front foot track, it does not erase the bar. Because no other canine’s track has this bar, we know a red fox traveled here. (Photo by Susan Holland)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 There are several hints in yesterday’s tracks that help to identify the red fox that made them. One is the straightness of the trail pattern. This is due in part to the fact that red foxes “direct register” when walking. Their hind feet fall directly where their front feet were placed. Each track represents where a front and hind foot has been placed. This creates a relatively narrow, straight trail pattern. (Domestic dogs often ramble to and fro, not in a direct, straight line like a fox.)

Much of track identification involves the process of elimination.  The presence of nail marks, and the fact that you can draw an “X” between the toe pads indicates that it is a canine, limiting the choice in the Northeast to domestic dog, red or gray fox, or coyote.  A diagnostic trait is the bar, either straight or boomerang-shaped, which often runs across the heel pad of a red fox’s front foot. (It is much less obvious in hind foot tracks.) When a red fox direct registers, placing its hind foot on top of its front foot track, it does not erase the bar. . Because no other canine’s track has this bar, we know a red fox traveled here. (Photo by Susan Holland)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

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9 responses

  1. Marilyn

    My old Peterson’s guide swayed me toward coyote. The detailed deductions leading to red fox are fascinating! What learning opportunities you pass on to us! Thank you.

    December 8, 2016 at 7:36 am

  2. Chris

    As always, Mary, so interesting! And I just ordered two of your new books and am really excited to give them as gifts. Thank you for all you do!

    December 8, 2016 at 7:45 am

  3. Charlie Perakis

    Mary,

    I wonder if the red fox trail represents a gallop and therefore the lower two tracks are fronts and the two tracks above are hinds rather than a direct register of the front and hinds. Notice the bend in the trail typical of a gallop and the relative size of the fronts compared to the hinds. A red fox in a direct register walk would have a straighter trail.

    Thanks for all your efforts.

    Carpe diem, Charlie

    December 8, 2016 at 8:40 am

  4. Linda

    Mary, could you put a red arrow where you see the bar? I was one of those who thought coyote. I don’t know where to look for the bar.

    December 8, 2016 at 11:03 am

    • I’ve sent you a photo via email, as I can’t post a photo here in “Comments.”

      December 8, 2016 at 1:54 pm

  5. Susan Holland

    what an honor to have my photo up on your blog!!!!

    December 8, 2016 at 12:57 pm

  6. Alice Pratt

    Awesome Fox! Can you tell from the photo if it is a Vixen or a Reynard?

    December 8, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    • Hi Alice, I can’t, but perhaps someone else who can will respond!

      December 8, 2016 at 3:44 pm

  7. Lovely picture!

    December 13, 2016 at 1:52 pm

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