Recently, I was sitting at my desk when a red fox paused outside of my window. Just near the edge of the decking, he rather abruptly came to a halt, assuming a stalker-like position. His tail was straight out from the back of his relatively little body, and his one paw was mid-air, reminiscent of how suddenly he had stopped.
He waited and I waited.
I imagine that he was holding his breath – I know I held mine. He remained perfectly still for what seemed like forever, but could not have been longer than a few seconds. Finally, in the blink of an eye, he pounced into the snow and surfaced with dinner. Immediately, he turned and happily trotted away through the muskoxen enclosure.
Sometimes I think staff and visitors get as excited about our visiting animals as they do the ones that “officially” live on-site. I rode the tour bus recently with a couple from the United Kingdom who were, at least immediately, as interested in the fox trotting along the road as the big bull muskox running to greet them.
But foxes are not our only visitors; or, more accurately, residents. Today, with the ground frozen, calm has settled in and our very large population of ground squirrels has disappeared for winter. In warmer months, however, these very active, very chirpy inhabitants are undeniably a favourite of many tourists.
The ground-squirrel population is particularly large at the Preserve, no doubt because of their access to food on-site, and very noticeable throughout the summer. They are so popular with the tourists that ground squirrels earned a place in our visitor trail guide amidst the caribou, bison and elk.
It is easy to be amused by ground squirrels. Their antics are hilarious; they are kind of cute and they are fairly brazen. In spring, they will sit on our exterior furniture – quite nearly while we are on it.
Later in the summer, as the rush begins to store food for winter, we discovered the hard way that all exterior doors closed need to be tightly shut. It turns out, no matter how many times a ground squirrel enters the office, it is surprising. This is particularly true when they emerge next to you while typing at your desk.
Despite our fascination, we do, from time to time, get visitors we wished would stay away – of the animal kind (all humans are welcome!). Squirrels, foxes, frogs and so many birds add to the vitality of life on the Preserve.
Others visitors just make us nervous. Coyotes, lynx and porcupines, in particular, garner special attention and special monitoring. Fortunately, the Preserve is rarely more than a thoroughfare and they leave as quickly as they came. We are also in the midst of a new perimeter fence project that should make it impossible for coyotes, at least, to enter.
Today, though, there is fairly fresh snow and kilometres of tracks criss-crossing the Preserve. Time to see who has been visiting
Krista Prochazka loved the Yukon Wildlife Preserve so much that she made her family move to the Yukon to become executive director of the Preserve. Contact her at [email protected]