Solving Problems with Nature - Naturally
ERIC P. ORFF
Certified Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife Author - Wildlife Lecturer -
Non-Lethal Control of Bats since 1983
New Hampshire Nature Notes by Eric Orff
Sunday 07/11/2004 A gray fox scream pierces the still night air.
Well, after another seemingly endless summer day, I sat down briefly to check for emails at midnight. Suddenly, the scream of a gray fox shattered the stillness of this night. Over the last two or three decades I have handled numerous calls to the Fish and Game offices describing this murderous sound. Or had this same sound described numerous times in conversation. I have learned to mimic this sound by voice, which even seems to work over the phone as folks will say "Yes that's the sound!" So over my thirty year career I've even had to learn to speak "fox" to educate the public.
Generally the ferocious "Fishercat" is singled out as the perpetrator as it skulks neighborhoods snatching up cats and small children in it's bloodthirsty lust for prey. Others have thought some neighbor was bludgeoning another. All described some despicable act so unlike reality. Foxes, like their other brethren canids, coyotes and wolves, have a whole variety of calls. This one just happens to sound like a blood curtailing scream. But when I explain that it is simply one of the foxes' calls, their terror seems to vanish.
I call the fox one of the animals that aren't. People often mistake an animal call for an animal it isn't. The hooting call of a mourning dove for example is pegged as an owl even though it only occurs during the daylight. The diminutive saw-whet owls beep-beep-beep call has been thought to be a truck backing up all night long.
Most people just don't know the night. I have enjoyed nights my whole life (more piercing calls even closer now). There are so many sounds of the night from frogs and insects to birds and screeching foxes that it really pays to learn them. After all, for many wild creatures, life really begins at sunset. There are several tapes and CDs available at nature stores to learn the sounds of the night.
Speaking of fox-talk and such, actually I have learned to speak several wild languages over the years. One of the easiest animals to learn and one that is very easy to talk to is moose. Cow, bull and calf moose sounds are easy to mimic and I have used them several times to "talk to moose". Just last summer I coaxed a cow moose out of a pond at the Fish and Game Berlin Hatchery while leading a group of science teachers on a moonlight moose meander. The cow had been feeding in the pond as we drove up. I gave a couple calf "urnts" and the cow quickly closed the distance from the pond to the road side where we were parked. She scooped up her calf that was laying nearby and meandered through our vehicles as she vanished into the darkness. I have called other moose to within a few yards using moose talk.
The easiest ever was one night my friend Rick Hamlett and I were fishing on the Merrimack River near Concord and were camping overnight on an island. Just as we went to sleep in our tent a rare Fowlers toad began to call. It is a baby-like whaaaa. We soon mimicked this sound and sporadically called to the toad. Each time we called the toad would answer. So we chatted with the toad for close to an hour before drifting off to sleep. Pillow talk with a toad. It just doesn't get much better than that!
2004-07-07 Another Peaceful Morning.
2004-07-14 Mid way through summer and it is put on hold.
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