Red fox Briz

Snow covers scent in a very efficient way. Therefore it is amazing that Briz can feel the smell of the field mice under some 1 feet of snow that we have right now. The snow at this time of the year consists of many layers. The layers are compressed and should form a "scent proof" roof preventing any scent to pour up to the surface from the layer between soil and dead grass where the mice live. Still, when we observe Briz moving over the field we can clearly recognize when she feels the scent of a fresh field mouse.

Since she does not have the hunting technique of the wild red fox she cannot catch them. Anyway it is amazing to observe the olfactory power of a birddog! Some years ago an Irish setter bitch visited Foxy several times during the snow period and they had a lot of fun trying to dig out the mice together. When the snow melts in the spring you can see the impressive network of tunnels the mice have all over the field. They are pretty safe there during the winter.

The English setter Briz pretends that she is a wild red fox,
scanning the snow-covered field for field mice.
The problem with her hunt is that she uses her nose,
instead of her ears, for locating the mice.

The red fox has an amazing ability to make a very precise location
of the mice by hearing it moving under the snow. Briz does not have
the precise ears needed to locate the mouse so she uses her nose instead.
Well a nose can be rather precise at moments when the prey is in the free air.
Not so when it is hidden deep under the snow. However it is difficult to
underestimate Briz efforts to locate the field mouse using her nose only!

A wild red fox attacks the mouse by making a very precise jump right on it,
and pressing the mouse to the ground with its front paws.
Briz tries to use another technique for the same purpose,
digging the mouse up with her nose and paws. The technique is doomed to fail.
The field mouse will hear her nose bore into the snow and has ample
time to escape in the labyrinth it has dug under the snow.

Having failed as a wild red fox, Briz looks up and the expression on her face
tells us something about her current self-esteem. She seems to say:
"Why am I, a birddog of noble birth, trying to catch a simple prey like a field mouse?

My mission as a noble birddog is, of course, to run with a high head and forget
about such lower class prey as field mice or other prey that leaves ground scent.
"If they can not be found by the wind, then they are not worth to be found at all!"

photo & text: Torsti Mäkinen ©