An Arctic fox lies down on a patch of snow. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)
Living on Earth's Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender reflects on the resilient attitude Arctic Foxes display in the cold North Pole environment.
DOERING: Winter is on its way in the far north, a time when animals must use all their senses to get by in the vast white landscape. And as Living on Earth’s Explorer in residence Mark Seth Lender reports, the Arctic Fox is well equipped for the stark environment.
Arctic Fox Hunting
Churchill Point, Manitoba
© 2019 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved
Cold slams shut like a safe door, the snow locked down like an iron box. Along the ridge, and through the icebound scrub, where the Arctic willow holds
back its buds comes the Arctic Fox, into the clearing. He stops. He cocks his head --
2 Left, 3 Right, 5 Left -- listening for the tumblers to click. And pounces! Face buried in the powdery stuff. And comes up empty. Arctic vole won’t let go of her stronghold house made fast by snow and silence.
Arctic Fox changes tack, working instead by the sharp of a nose that follows the track his eyes cannot see, the sound his ears cannot hear. Inhaling... Exhaling... The odors he detects are both storyline and cartography. Of what went this way and that. And what hides. He prods and tests, trying to pick an unpickable lock; to beat Winter’s Time Clock. And Time, is running, out. Head down, body slinking low, fox climbs onto the blue ice rising between boulders… suddenly trapped by a scent, too sweet to pass. His attention in its gentle grasp he rolls, onto his shoulders and stretches his limbs, toes outspread, ears pulled back, lips teased to a foxy grin.
What does the unseen world say to Arctic Fox? What is his pleasure? What perfumes speak from the rime crusted cold? Sea sweet innards of seal drizzled down the chin of polar bear? The place where ptarmigan found [YAWNS] sleep? Did a pair of Arctic hare have congress here in anticipation of a distant Spring? Did snowy owl dine on some delicious morsel, right here? He knows, of Wonders you and I will never uncover.
Arctic Fox stands and arches his back in what might seem a domesticated gesture reminiscent of the lapping dog, who will never be his equal in the perpetual Quest, never contribute his fluffy manicured pallor to the white on white; only Arctic Fox invests with meaning.
DOERING: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender. To see pictures, check out our website, loe dot org.
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