Word About Town

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Discover these bushy-tailed creatures, who share our backyard—and keep the rodents in check.

By Steve Phillips December 11, 2019 Published in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of Park City Magazine

Deep snow doesn’t foil the red fox. He stops, cocks his ear to the ground, and pounces headfirst into the powder, expertly nabbing his prey. Though these graceful wild dogs can be found throughout Park City, for prime viewing, grab the binocs and head to Swaner Nature Preserve (1258 Center Dr, 435.649.1767, swanerecocenter.org). The swath of open space serves as the fox’s perfect habitat, rich with prey as well as denning areas.

While the fox might be glimpsed year round, wintery landscapes make for easier spotting with their coats contrasting the snow as they hunt. The Wasatch Mountain fox, a subspecies of the large American red fox, feeds primarily on Uinta ground squirrels, mice, and meadow voles, all abundant in the area. Of note: They occasionally take domestic cats prowling the Preserve (and beyond), so keep those little furries indoors.

Oft-maligned as sly and sneaky, the fox plays a vital role in keeping rodent populations in check. “We view our foxes as native predators that help to keep a balance within the ecosystem,” says Nell Larson, executive director of Swaner EcoCenter.

In spring, foxes mate and vixens (females) have four to six kits, which are typically tucked away out of sight. Though you may find them elusive to the eye, keep an ear out for their unusual calls: adults bark and deliver “wow-wow-wows,” clucks, huffs, and high-pitched whines; nursing kits unleash distinctive, unnerving cries, which are actually just loud growls, and groans while fighting for a good spot to dine.

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