June 29, 2016

The Brave Bunny & the Fox Den That Maybe Wasn't

A branch got in front of the lens!
A few days ago I mentioned some encounters with a red fox and discovery of what I thought was her den.

One thing bothered me a bit: it seemed a little late in the year for small fox kits. The last time that we did a "wildlife taxi" run for a very young kit, it was April. 

But I had also camera-trapped kits out with Mom in mid-June.

But by the third week of June, would they be using the den? On the 24th, the camera snapped this cottontail rabbit in front of the opening. Now that was one brave bunny, or else perhaps the den was empty.

For one last try, I decided to bait the site with some scattered dry dogfood. There was certainly a lot of fox scat in the area—some fox(es) had been bombing favorite trailside rocks, as they do. And it was fresh.

I checked the camera this morning, the 29th. Someone new had arrived, a spotted skunk!

Spotted skunk, Eastern or Western?
There were several photos of it sniffing and posing in front of the boulder, but nothing showed it going in or out of the den. Was it just there for the dog kibble?

I cannot recall ever seeing one here before. They are smaller and more excitable than good ol' Mephitis mephitis, the ubiquitous striped skunk, and they climb trees, sort of.

Sources vary as to what separates Eastern and Western populations. Some say the Continental Divide. On the other hand, this Forest Service document says, "It does occur just east of the Rocky Mountains and into the foothills in Colorado." Foothills, scrub — that's us. So maybe the High Plains are the dividing line. (The species difference is delayed implantation in the Western spotted skunk.)

I also got photos of another neighbor dog and, twenty minutes later during his morning run, our Chesapeake, Fisher. I remember that he tore off running toward the den area, which I was trying to keep him away from. Either he smelled dry kibble at a hundred yards or, more likely, he smelled the other dog's recent presence.

Anyway, no sign of a fox. But I think that I will leave the camera up and see what happens. Maybe there will be another fox-skunk showdown. This one, with a striped skunk, was photographed nearby a few years back.

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