Winter Wildlife Wonders

Winter is a great time to get out on conserved lands and trails, and our local wildlife couldn’t agree more! BTLT staff recently captured a resident red fox at Androscoggin Woods on a game camera, who is just one of the many creatures that calls this property home.

Red fox don’t hibernate during the winter, which is why it is common to see fox on game cameras such as ours or while they are out hunting. As omnivores, fox may enjoy grasses, berries, and insects in their diet during the warmer months, but thanks to their excellent sense of smell and hearing, red fox are adept wintertime hunters and can hear a mouse squeak from 100 feet away underneath the snow. Red fox are well known for pouncing head first into snow during the wintertime while hunting for small mammals who live between the surface of the ground and the bottom of the snowpack, also known as the subnivean zone. There beneath the snow’s surface are mice, voles, and shrews who build vast networks of tunnels where they can access food found along the ground and enjoy protection from predators and freezing wintertime temperatures. With 6-8 inches of snow, the tunnels of these small mammals remain at around 32 degrees regardless of the outside temperatures. Fox, however, are particularly adept at listening for the inhabitants of the subnivean zone and infiltrating their winter lair. 

Example of red fox track patterns in the snow, courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Not only are foxes busy hunting during the winter, but they also mate between December and February (a period of time marked by what is commonly referred to as a fox “screaming”). Mated foxes raise cubs together in their burrows until they are old enough to go out on their own when they are around 10 months old. In the wild, fox typically only live three years due to predation, disease, and other factors.

Even if you don’t cross paths with a fox, winter is a great time to explore local trails and look for animal tracks in the snow. You’re likely to see signs of deer, squirrels, and other small mammals who are all active during the wintertime, and you might see some fox tracks as well!

(Ignore the dates/times on the game cam photos, something is off with our game camera time settings!)

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