Have a crack­ing Easter

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

Did you know that foxes in the Scot­tish up­lands tend to be larger than the rest of the UK?

Most foxes weigh be­tween 12-15lbs and the largest fox ever recorded – found in the Scot­tish High­lands – weighed a whop­ping 26lbs!

In Charles Dar­win’s Nat­u­ral Se­lec­tion it says: “Mr Colquhoun, a very good ob­server, wrote that one can dis­tin­guish this an­i­mal even at a dis­tance from the small fox of the low grounds; he stands higher, his head broad, nose not so pointed, his coat more shaggy and mixed with white hairs. He is much more pow­er­ful and preys on young sheep and rears his young not in holes, but in clefts in the rocks; is less noc­tur­nal in his habits and al­to­gether more like a wolf than a low­land fox.”

This ‘High­land’ or ‘Moun­tain’ fox are more closely matched to Scan­di­na­vian foxes in size, and some have sug­gested they’re de­scen­dants of stock im­ported from the con­ti­nent.

So, why are up­land foxes larger than low­land foxes? In higher lat­i­tudes like Scot­land and Scan­di­navia we have longer nights (foxes are pri­mar­ily noc­tur­nal), al­low­ing for a longer hunt­ing pe­riod; if a fox can hunt more and catch more, they inevitably grow larger.

The in­creased day length may also help the fox, be­cause of in­creased pri­mary pro­duc­tiv­ity (plant growth).

Think­ing back to the food pyra­mid, lots of plants feeds lots of small mam­mals and moun­tain hares, which in turn feeds the fox. Larger foxes are also adapted to liv­ing in harsher con­di­tions. A larger body loses heat less quickly than a smaller one, which helps in cold en­vi­ron­ments, and longer legs can help them get through all that snow. This all leads back to Charles Dar­win and the sur­vival of the fittest – only the larger foxes will sur­vive and breed to pro­duce the next gen­er­a­tion.

We see foxes oc­ca­sion­ally at the Falls of Clyde. Last year I was lucky enough to see a vixen and three cubs while on a bad­ger watch.

I of­ten see signs on the re­serve, but I never thought they were an up­land species un­til I saw tracks in the snow at the week­end whilst walk­ing up Meall Ghaor­daidh, near Killin. Sadly I didn’t see the fox, I was prob­a­bly too busy huff­ing and puff­ing my way up the moun­tain to no­tice, but as you can see, the print is very fresh!

Easter fam­ily fun David Liv­ing­stone Cen­tre

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