Fox Fun and Food and a Mink Mystery - UPDATE November 20, 2018

The menu was bologna, smoked whitefish, a peanut butter cookie, and sunflower seed hearts. And it was a mystery as to why the foxes were so wary and alert, sneaking up on bologna and not daring to go where they usually go. Fox creeping  Fox creeping First, a furtive fox went to the top of the second floor steps, ears straight forward looking around. Then it went down the steps as if it heard something. On the first floor deck, it pawed quickly and cautiously at the spaces between the boards on the first floor deck, even slapping at them. Then a mink showed itself emerging partway from under the deck between the steps, watching the fox investigate the spot where it usually goes under the deck 15 feet away.

Flying squirrelFlying squirrelLater, a fox on the second floor deck didn’t dare approach the pan where it often eats sunflower seeds. A piece of bologna was just outside the pan. The fox crept hesitantly to it and suddenly snatched it and backed away. Again, a mink had made the mystery. A couple minutes later, a mink emerged from under the deck where the bologna had been. I didn’t know gray foxes would be so wary of a mink that is only a quarter their weight.

There are now two mink—the big dark male and a smaller, lighter brown female. Both spend a lot of time under the first floor deck and in the shallow space under the second floor deck where a sheet of plastic catches the bologna and other foods that fall through the spaces between the deck boards.

Mink maleMink male Mink in snowMink in snow Mink femaleMink female

At night, northern flying squirrels are dazzling. They sail in and land on the dead white pine trunk. They leap 20 feet between tree trunks and scamper back and forth on the railing or up and down the white pine. They are the quickest squirrels I know in a tree. Maybe they can be more reckless and have less fear of falling with their ability to glide.

ChickadeeChickadeeBy day, chickadees and other birds tried to distract me from thoughts of projects I should be doing.

Flying squirrel on treeFlying squirrel on treeI hope the two people who gave me the smoked whitefish and the peanut butter cookies don’t find out I shared. The smoked whitefish was a big hit with the gray foxes and the mink. A fox ate the one cookie before the mink could try it.

It is helplessly intriguing to watch how these animals move and respond to each other as they come and go outside the window. The flying squirrels that react with such speed to some things are quick to accept a person doing his usual thing at his computer in his usual spot. One of the foxes is better about that than the others. Same for the mink. The big male mink knows the program and will carry food calmly past me only 3-4 feet away with me standing outside. The smaller female ducks over the edge of the second floor deck and hides under the boards when I open the door.

Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center