Is it Friday yet? We definitely know how this red fox feels. 🐺
It’s a leap and a miss for this red fox that was hunting for a snack in Yellowstone National Park’s Hayden Valley. By leaping, the fox avoids the noise of running at the target, which would alert his prey to danger. Better luck next time buddy! Video by Dale Bohlke, National Park Service.
Fun Fact Friday: A Natural Winter Windbreak in Sagebrush
Story By Nancy Patterson, Public Affairs Specialist, Greater Sage-Grouse Rocky Mountain Region; Photos by Nancy Patterson (BLM), Lisa Marks (BLM), and Tom Koerner (USFWS)
It’s blizzarding in sagebrush country! Negative temperatures, snowfall, and winds pull together for a threatening whiteout. What are wildlife to do out in the Big Empty to protect themselves from winter weather conditions? Let sagebrush come to the rescue!
While black-tailed prairie dogs hide out in their burrows during snowstorms and horned lizards move into hibernation, many of sagebrush country’s more than 350 species depend on lucky breaks among the shrubs for food and shelter.
Sagebrush have a long tap root, which helps secure it to the ground and draw water and nutrients from the soil. These nutrients enter the plant and some transpose to wildlife that eat their ever-verdant leaves. Mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and Greater sage-grouse all depend on this food source in winter months.
This fox is diving for its dinner. Tracking mice under the snow, the fox will leap up and land on its prey, taking it by surprise. It’s an effective, and entertaining, performance. Just one of the many wonders you can see at Yellowstone National Park in #Wyoming. Photo by National Park Service.
Story By Nancy Patterson, Public Affairs Specialist, BLM’s Greater Sage-Grouse Rocky Mountain Region
What made this highway of tiny tracks? Where are they going? Wait! What’s that sticking up out of the snow? It’s an antler! But what’s an antler doing in the Big Empty? You might think it’d just be a cool decoration for your house. But this antler is a crucial source of nutrients for small animals of sagebrush country.
Antlers grow on members of the cervidae, or deer, family. Except for caribou, only males grow antlers. In the sagebrush ecosystem, two of the cervidae you may see are mule deer and elk. Deer antlers are made of bone, extend from their skull, and fall off every year. Young males typically grow spikes and single-pronged antlers. As the buck or bull ages, their antlers grow in mass and more tines develop.
It take a lot of energy and calcium to grow a set of antlers. All summer long in the high country deer graze on vitamin-rich vegetation, which gives them the strength they need to produce their annual antlers. The developing antlers are very tender. They’re covered in velvet, which provides protection and nutrients to the growing bones. As fall approaches, the bone hardens and the velvet gets itchy. Deer rub it off on branches to polish them for the rut, their mating season. With their handsome set of antlers, bull elk and buck mule deer are ready to display their might and prowess to competing males and attract the attention of doe deer and cow elk.