Arizona’s early dove season opened Sept. 1, and at least one hungry fox got the memo. A video that was uploaded to Instagram account Nature Is Metal this week shows the fox snatching a dove out of midair as it tries to land on a nearby rock.
Rusten Allred is credited as the videographer who captured the up-close footage. It’s unclear where it was filmed, but it was likely somewhere in Arizona, since Allred’s profile shows him living in Marana just outside of Tuscon. He was camping at the time—as evidenced by the sleeping bag and other gear strewn about—and he captured the video around dawn. It’s still dark out with just a hint of color in the sky. In other words, a fine time to set up for a dove hunt.
And when the short video begins, that’s exactly what the fox appears to be doing. Illuminated (and somehow undisturbed) by the bright light Allred is shining on it, the fox sits still with its ears perked. Suddenly, the fox cocks its head to the right and looks up to the sky before darting in that direction.
As Allred pans his camera and light that way, the fox’s objective becomes clear. There’s a dove flying down to land on a nearby rock. The bird beats its wings as it prepares to touch down, but as soon as it does, the fox is already in position. It quickly bites down on one of the dove’s wings and then turns around to carry it away, scampering off into the brush.
It’s a remarkable display of how foxes rely on their keen sense of hearing to find and pinpoint prey. Their large ears, which they can move independently, can pick up on the slightest of sounds. Their ears are especially tuned to low frequency noises, like the rustling of a vole on the far side of a field, or the wingbeats of a dove in midair.
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Biologists have long known that foxes can pinpoint these low frequency rustling sounds the best, but more recent studies have revealed an even more impressive ability that foxes possess. In 2011, a team of researchers discovered that they’re able to use the Earth’s magnetic field to judge both direction and distance. This allows them to zero in on their prey without even seeing it.
To be fair, the dove-snatching fox in Allred’s video had an unnatural advantage in the form of the light that Allred was shining. It’s possible that the dove was somehow attracted to the bright light. Regardless, Allred’s light clearly blinded the bird as it came into land, which made it easy pickings for the fox.
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