“Mousing” at Mount Washburn – the Incredible Red Foxes of Yellowstone
As a naturalist guide in Yellowstone, one of the most coveted sightings as far as wildlife is concerned is to catch a fox hunting—or “mousing”— for its prey. However, because of foxes’ tendency to be more active at night, this sighting can prove to be a difficult challenge.
On an early Sunday morning in June I was privileged enough to witness a red fox “mouse” for its prey with guests. The fox was in plain view and was observed by myself and several other captivated bystanders (including my guests ) near the summit of Mount Washburn, a high point on the rim of the Yellowstone Caldera on the southern edge of the Northern Range.
The fox used its natural gift of pinpointing its prey’s location by sound, known as triangulation, where it located an unsuspecting victim. With lightning speed the fox pounced on its chosen target, carefully concealing it from its audience. Footage of the “mousing” in action can be seen here:
Vulpes vulpes, the Latin name for the red fox, has the widest natural distribution of any land mammal with the exception of humans. It is often considered sly or cunning and tends to be more nocturnal than the other two canines found in Yellowstone: the wolf and coyote.
There are several variations of color that foxes can be, ranging anywhere from red to black to silver. One interesting color variant is known as a cross fox pattern, where the fox has a dark cross running across the back. The fox pictured here happens to be a very light color, typical of foxes that are found at high elevations here in Yellowstone.
Foxes tend to be found in grasslands and forests as well in deserts and arctic tundras. They hunt for small animals such as mice, voles, and squirrels, as well as eggs and carrion.
The fox mousing in these photos was after what we believed to be a rodent, although we weren’t certain if the hunt was successful. After proudly showing us its incredibly cool hunting skills that morning the fox continued on its journey toward the summit of Mount Washburn, more than likely to find a nice, quiet place to sleep the day away.
Photos, video, and content compliment of Yellowstone Wild guide Travis M.