Thursday, August 10, 2006

Watching the Watcher

I spent the last four days in Roosevelt, TX a small town in Kimble County with a sparse population of about 150 people. Friends of mine were headed here to work on their deer lease and asked me to come along knowing of my interests in nature. I roamed the countryside which was much different than my area of Texas in that it is a rougher type of terrain. Made up mostly of pinyon pines, junipers, cactus, some oaks and lots of scrub and rocks it is the perfect setting for finding rattlesnakes, but much to my displeasure I did not see a single one. I'm sure this was due to the intense afternoon heat. Though snakes are cold-blooded and enjoy the warmth of the sun they're smart enough to know when it is just too hot to be out. As I observed brown towhees rustling through leaf litter for bugs, jack rabbits fleeing my presence, and axis deer feeding in the open vistas little did I know that the watcher was being watched. After hiking several miles I decided to turn back and when I did, there behind me, sitting in the road 50 yards away was a gray fox (Urocyan cinereoargenteus). I immediately froze in my tracks not believing my good fortune. Foxes are very secretive animals and normally hard to spot. I had found its scat in many areas along my trek, but thought my chances of seeing one was remote. And now one had come to me. It was probably hidden in the brush watching as I unknowingly walked past it and then being the curious animal that it is, came out to see what I was up to. Luckily I had my camera around my neck and not in my backpack and slowly raised it to capture the photo presented in this post. I took a few more photos, mainly of its backend as it departed as deftly as it had appeared. Encounters such as this are what drive me to spend as much time as possible outdoors. It's the never knowing of what you're going to find around the next corner, under the next rock or log, or right behind you.

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