Sensitive viewers and vole fans won’t like the outcome of this clip, but anyone who likes foxes and might. This predator and prey moment from Nature on PBS‘ Born in the Rockies shares how voles can live in insulated snow tunnels during the winter, and how foxes can catch them even though they can’t see them. How?
“It’s believed that foxes can see magnetic north, and by aligning their prey in a northward direction, along with the sound of the prey, they can triangulate the precise distance of their attack.”
See inside the tunnels and see the fox pounce.
From the 2011-published research via The Royal Society:
“Red foxes hunting small animals show a specific behaviour known as ‘mousing’. The fox jumps high, so that it surprises its prey from above. Hearing seems to be the primary sense for precise prey location in high vegetation or under snow where it cannot be detected with visual cues…
“…we suggest that mousing red foxes may use the magnetic field as a ‘range finder’ or targeting system to measure distance to its prey and thus increase the accuracy of predatory attacks…”
And some clarifying detail via Phys.org:
“Burda said the fox could sense the magnetic northerly direction as a patch of dark or light. In the northern hemisphere the magnetic field tilts downwards below the horizontal at an angle of 60-70°, so the fox edges forward in search of the point at which the angle of the sound from the prey meets the slope of the magnetic field. At that point the prey is a fixed jump distance away.”
Watch another video and read more about the research: The Earth’s magnetic field helps foxes target mice in the snow.
Plus, watch more foxes and these related videos on TKSST:
• Desert Fox Hunts A Lesser Jerboa
• The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse
• Arctic foxes reunite in a snowstorm
• A ‘plucky’ songbird harvests nesting material from a snoozing fox
Bonus: Searching for Water Voles.