Hare-predator mix makes for strange food-fellows in Interior dog lots

Posted: Monday, December 04, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Every night at feeding time, Diane Marshall's dog lot gets noticeably larger. That's when the five foxes show up.

As soon as she feeds her border collie, Glen, the foxes move in. By the time she's moved on to the second of her eight dogs, all five foxes have emerged from the woods.

She watches them steal food from Glen. One fox distracts him while another grabs some food or the whole bowl.

''My dogs have gotten smart,'' Marshall said. ''They all dump their bowls right away. They've learned if they dump their food, the foxes won't get it.''

It seems that lynxes aren't the only animals benefiting from the abundance of snowshoe hares in the Alaska Interior. The region's snowshoe hare population fluctuates according to a 10-year cycle that is at its peak, state Fish and Game biologist Mark McNay said.

''When you have a hare high like this, all the critters that depend on them do good.''

Coyote numbers in the Interior also are up, he said.

Unlike lynxes, whose diet consists almost entirely of hares, foxes are more opportunistic.

Fish and Game biologist Cathie Harms got a call recently from a woman who told her there was a fox in her yard staring at her cat. ''I told her if she valued the cat, she better bring it inside,'' Harms told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

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