Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 24, 2001 - Issue 30



The Origin of Fire


Jicarilla Apache legend

Long, long ago, animals and trees talked with each other, but there was no fire at that time.

Fox was most clever and he tried to think of a way to create fire for the world. One day, he decided to visit the Geese, te-tl, whose cry he wished to learn how to imitate. They promised to teach him if he would fly with them. So they contrived a way to attach wings to Fox, but cautioned him never to open his eyes while flying.

Whenever the Geese arose in flight, Fox also flew along with them to practice their cry. On one such adventure, darkness descended suddenly as they flew over the village of the fireflies, ko-na- tcic-a. In midflight, the glare from the flickering fireflies caused Fox to forget and he opened his eyes--instantly his wings collapsed! His fall was uncontrollable. He landed within the walled area of the firefly village, where a fire constantly burned in the centre.

Two kind fireflies came to see fallen Fox, who gave each one a necklace of juniper berries, katl-te-i-tse.

Fox hoped to persuade the two fireflies to tell him where he could find a way over the wall to the outside. They led him to a cedar tree, which they explained would bend down upon command and catapult him over the wall if he so desired.

That evening, Fox found the spring where fireflies obtained their water. There also, he discovered coloured earth, which when mixed with water made paint. He decided to give himself a coat of white. Upon returning to the village, Fox suggested to the fireflies, "Let's have a festival where we can dance and I will produce the music."

They all agreed that would be fun and helped to gather wood to build up a greater fire. Secretly, Fox tied a piece of cedar bark to his tail. Then he made a drum, probably the first one ever constructed, and beat it vigorously with a stick for the dancing fireflies. Gradually, he moved closer and closer to the fire.

Fox pretended to tire from beating the drum. He gave it to some fireflies who wanted to help make the music. Fox quickly thrust his tail into the fire, lighting the bark, and exclaimed, "It is too warm here for me, I must find a cooler place."

Straight to the cedar tree Fox ran, calling, "Bend down to me, my cedar tree, bend down! Down bent the cedar tree for Fox to catch hold, then up it carried him far over the wall. On and on he ran, with the fireflies in pursuit.

As Fox ran along, brush and wood on either side of his path were ignited from the sparks dropping from the burning bark tied to his tail.

Fox finally tired and gave the burning bark to Hawk, i-tsarl-tsu- i, who carried it to brown Crane, tsi-nes-tso-l. He flew far southward, scattering fire sparks everywhere. This is how fire first spread over the earth.

Fireflies continued chasing Fox all the way to his burrow and declared, "Forever after, Wily Fox, your punishment for stealing our fire will be that you can never make use of it for yourself."

For the Apache nation, this too was the beginning of fire for them. Soon they learned to use it for cooking their food and to keep themselves warm in cold weather.

Print and Color your own Firefly

Red Fox

Fox and Grapes by Robert Bateman

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes), is the subject of many stories, songs, fables, and parables. Its flashy good looks and its ability to live close to people and their varied activities have undoubtedly contributed to this notoriety. Probably a more important reason is the fox's reputation for cunning and intelligence. Several English expressions testify to the fox's wily mind: “sly as a fox,” “foxy,” “outfoxed,” and “crazy as a fox.” Actually, the red fox has well developed senses of sight, smell, and hearing, which are responsible for much of its reputation.


The red fox is common in most of northern North America. The fox prefers broken country, extensive lowland marshes, and crisscrossed hills and draws. It is most abundant south of the arctic tundra. It is also present in tundra regions, which it shares with the arctic fox. Where the ranges of the two species overlap, the red fox is dominant. In these areas, red foxes have been observed digging white (arctic) foxes from their dens and killing them.

General description:

Red foxes are members of the dog family Canidae, and their general appearance is similar to dogs, wolves, and coyotes. The European red fox is the same species as the American red fox. The red fox measures 22 to 32 inches (56-82 cm) in head and body length, and the tail is 14 inches to 16 inches (35- 43 cm) long. The adult fox weight is from 6 to 15 pounds (2.7-6.8 kg), but it appears heavier than it actually is. The males, or “dogs,” are usually heavier than the females, or “vixens.”

The red fox is usually recognized by its reddish coat, its white- tipped tail, and black “stockings,” although the species does have many color variations. The outside of the ears may be black-tipped, while the inside is usually white. The white tip on the tail will distinguish this fox from other species, regardless of its color phase. Red is the most common color, but the hair may be from light yellowish to deep auburn red. Several color phases can occur in one litter. Red foxes displaying a distinct color pattern are referred by the name of that phase (i.e., red, cross, silver, black). The cross fox, for example, has a black/brown cross on the back and shoulders. The silver and black phases are similar. However, the black does not have the silver-tipped guard hairs characteristic of the silver fox. However, even where most abundant, it comprises less than 2 percent of the population.


The trail of the red fox generally follows fencelines and the edges of forests and fields in a straight line but this line may vary depending on the animals speed and gait. The print is usually smaller, longer and narrower than that of a dogs. The front print is wider and larger than the pointed hind print. The heel pad is an inverted V-shape with a unique calloused ridge across the center of the pad.

Life history:

The female establishes the den site for the young in late winter, but both parents live together while raising the young. Foxes reputedly mate for life. Foxes either dig their own dens or utilize those of other burrowing animals.

Red foxes breed during February and March. The den is a hole in the earth, 15 to 20 feet long, usually located on the side of a knoll. It may have several entrances. Sometimes foxes dig their own dens. More often, though, they appropriate and enlarge the homesites of small burrowing animals, such as marmots. Sometimes two litters may occupy one den. They also will use abandoned wolf dens. Conversely, wolves may enlarge and use a fox's den.

Within the den is a grass-lined nest where well-furred but blind babies, called kits, are born after a gestation of 53 days. A litter of four kits is common, though a litter of ten is not a rarity. At birth, kits weigh about 4 ounces. Normally only one litter is born each year. The kits' eyes open 8 to 10 days after birth. The young leave the den for the first time a month later. The mother gradually weans them, and by the time the kits are 3 months old, they are learning to hunt. Both parents care for the young. The family unit endures until autumn, when it breaks up and each animal is on its own.


The red fox is omnivorous (meat eating). Red foxes are opportunistic feeders and will take any acceptable food in proportion to its availability. The major food items are small rodents, rabbits, wild fruits and berries, and insects. Small mammals evidently constitute staple foods during the greater part of the year. Other kinds of prey fluctuate according to season, weather conditions, abundance, and vulnerability of prey populations, and with the experience of the fox. Young animals learning to hunt have to take what they can get.

Foxes cache excess food when the hunting is good. They return to these storage sites and have been observed digging up a cache, inspecting it, and reburying it in the same spot. Apparently, they want to be sure that their food is still there.


In areas where foxes have had little contact with humans, they display cautious curiosity. Even less fear is shown where contacts with humans are very common. Foxes are very adaptable to a wide range of habitats and can thrive close to humans, but they prefer wild settings. They require only a source of food and cover. Foxes are quite vocal, having a large repertoire of howls, barks, and whines. The red fox has several natural enemies: man (principally as trappers), wolves, coyotes, lynx, wolverines, and perhaps bears. Eagles are the major predators of young foxes in some areas.


Fox trappers have always respected the cunning displayed by this intelligent animal. Only the most carefully planned sets, free of human scent, will consistently catch foxes. Fox fur, like many other furs, fluctuates widely in popularity. When fox is out of style, the prices are correspondingly low. During the 1920s, when fox fur was fashionable, silver fox pelts sold for up to $500 each.

Red Fox






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