Ancestral Wisdoms

It continues to be ferociously cold. Miss Kit has more or less stopped complaining about the snow, having apparently come to the conclusion that that’s the way things are and there’s no point in shouting about it. But it is cold enough for the snow to be, or seem, dry rather than wet, which means that she actually finds it less unpleasant than if it were melting, and she has begun to show a certain interest in playing about with it. In particular, some sort of atavistic message has reached her from the last Ice Age or thereabouts, because she is playing at hunting in a completely new way. After a period of careful observation, ears swivelling like radar receivers, she rises to her full height on her back legs like a meerkat, remains poised, and then with great swiftness and suddenness, pounces with both front paws held precisely together so that she punches a hole in the snow, making use of the extra force generated by dropping from her upright position. She is practising this manoeuvre on a slope with about two inches of snow, so naturally, nothing much happens. However, the sequence of actions in themselves are precisely what an Arctic fox does when it catches lemmings and suchlike little creatures, which make tunnels under the thick snow of the tundra to get at what remains of the summer’s grasses. Our snow has not developed a crust so thick that if she is minded to make a hole, she actually needs to punch through it. Nor is the vole community in any need of making tunnels under the snow, since even in present conditions there is plenty they can get at, my tulips, for instance (sod them). But who knows? It might get colder and colder and colder. Perhaps it will never be warm again. And if Fimbulwinter descends, Miss Kit will be ready to meet it, her subarctic voling technique ready-honed and practised.

One Response to “Ancestral Wisdoms”

  1. The Man From Maryport Says:

    Now that really is fascinating . . . one had always imagined that that sort of hunting behaviour was learned from parental example (a farmer friend swears that you don’t actually teach border collies to be sheep-dogs, they pick it up from their packmates). So unless Miss Kit has been learning from the example of the roughs (they’ve had it too easy for too long that lot . . .) this must be genuinely selected-for behaviour?

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