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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 11, 2001 - Issue 42


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How Fox Saved the People


 Slave Legend

Once upon a time, in a camp near Great Slave Lake, there were no caribou to kill. For days and days the families went without food. Everyone was very hungry and weak.

Each day a raven landed in the camp. He would wander from tent to tent looking at the hungry people.

Whenever he came to the camp, he appeared cheerful. The people were puzzled why the raven looked so happy.

"Raven, do you have lots of food?", the people asked. "We cannot help noticing your happy face." The raven replied, "I'm having the same problem as you". All this time the raven was thinking about what a good meal he'd have when some of the people died.

The people still wanted to know why the raven always looked so happy. They decided to follow him to see where he went. His footprints led them into the forest. They followed the tracks until suddenly they came to an end. The men looked everywhere for more signs of the raven. Suddenly they noticed a quiver hanging on a branch of a tree. On the quiver were pieces of frozen fat.

"No wonder the raven is so cheerful, he has lots of food. He lied to us. There's probably more food near-by,"
the people said. They decided there must be a herd of caribou a short distance away.

While the people were talking, a man named Make-Bone said he would follow the raven the next time he left their camp. So everyone returned home, to wait for the raven to appear. The raven visited the camp again the next day, not knowing about the plan the people had decided upon. As usual, he entered each tent looking for a possible meal.

Finally he decided to leave. Already Make-Bone had climbed an old spruce tree to watch the raven. When the raven flew away, Make-Bone tried to follow him with his eyes. However, he was flying out of sight. Since Make-Bone was worried he might lose the raven, he wiped his forehead with ashes. This helped him to see better.

"I can see him now," cried Make-Bone. "He's landing near a hill. Let's follow him there!" Everyone started walking through the forest to find the raven. It was a long walk and everyone became very tired. Finally they arrived at the hill where Make-Bone had last seen the raven.. At first they didn't see any sign of the bird. Then suddenly they noticed a big spruce hut nearby. Quickly the people surrounded the lodging. A wolf, who happened
to appear then, offered to enter the hut to see what was inside.

In there he noticed a bundle of food on a pole rack, which was over a fire. The wolf grasped the heavy bundle and took it to the people. Everyone was happy to have food to eat. However, they decided to find the raven, so that they would have food for the next meal as well.

"Who will enter the hut to spy on the raven?" the crowd asked. This time a fox offered to help. Before he went in, he told the people to put all the children on a pole rack, where they would be safe. Then the fox told everyone to stand nearby. "Be ready to start spearing," he said. When the people were ready, the fox entered the hut.

Once inside, he brushed the fire with his bushy tail. This made large clouds of smoke. Quickly he trotted outside with a trail of smoke following him. Everyone waited patiently.

Soon there was a loud noise which sounded like thunder. Suddenly a large herd of caribou stampeded from the spruce hut. The hunters began spearing the caribou as they ran past. When most of the caribou had been killed, the people noticed a pair of crumbled wings and bits of feather on the ground. An old women started to sob when
she saw this.

"Where is the raven? We need the wise raven!" she cried. Then she picked up the pieces of bone and feather and put them beside her when she went to sleep that night. The next morning she found that the raven was not dead.

The raven felt sorry that he had saved the caribou. He knew that the fox had outwitted him, and had saved the people from starving.

Print and Color Your Own Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox (alopex lagopus)

The Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus), or white fox, as it is often called, is a member of the canid family and is related to other foxes, wolves, and dogs.

The arctic fox is the only canid that has successfully made a home in the Arctic circle. They are found in the tundras of the arctic areas of Eurasia, North America, Iceland, and Greenland. However, their former range was much more extensive. Their remains have been found in many southern European countries like France, Great Britain, Germany, Poland and Switzerland.

Arctic foxes weigh about 7-9 lb. (3.2-4 kg), have a body length of 21-22 in. (53-55 cm) plus an additional 12 in. (30-31 cm) for the length of the tail, and a shoulder height of (25-30 cm). They have extremely small, rounded ears, which restrict heat loss, and a very large bushy tail that takes up half the animals length. The soles of their feet are covered entirely with hair to prevent frostbite. In fact, this gives them their species name, lagopus, which means hare-footed. Their hair is very thick and bushy, and is much longer in the wintertime than
the summertime. Their thick fur has the highest insulation value of any mammal.

Two color phases are known in the arctic fox: the white phase found mostly in winter, and the blue phase found in the summertime. When they moult, the blue foxes turn a dark blue, while the white phase foxes turn brown with lighter underparts. Some foxes are stuck in a certain phase, such as where it stays a constant temperature. Foxes living where it is cold all the time generally stay white, while those living on the coast where it is warmer tend to stay bluish.

Diet and Hunting Behavior:
Arctic foxes are highly opportunistic eaters, and will feed on rodents, lemmings, scavenge from wolf kills of bison, walrus carcass, flightless sea birds, and their eggs. They often cache food in holes dug in the ice, to eat later. The arctic foxes' population is directly correlated to the lemming. Both their lives exhibit a four year cycle, with the highest fox numbers peaking with the highest lemming numbers.

Social and Reproductive Behavior:
Arctic foxes are perhaps the only canid that has no fear of man. They have been observed stealing food from camps and bothered men skinning seals. This is rather unusual, because the arctic fox has been persecuted just like any other fox for its fur. So it is surprising that they still come into such close contact with people.

The arctic fox can travel extensively throughout its range, and some have been observed 931 mi (1500 km) from where they were originally trapped and tagged. It is believed they are also carried by ice floes in the springtime. Arctic foxes have a distinct seasonal movement pattern. They live in the northernmost parts of their range during the spring and summer, and return inland in autumn to mate and raise their young. Arctic foxes also maintain large home ranges, which can be from 3 - 7 sq. mi (8.6 - 18.5 sq. km), and the home ranges rarely overlap. Territory size is influenced by availability of prey.

The arctic fox appears to be monogamous, with pairs staying together a significant amount of time. Mating season is from February to May. After a gestation period of 53 days, the arctic fox gives birth to a litter of 5-10 cubs in an underground den. This underground den is extensive and has many entrances, which may be used for several generations. The male helps in the raising of the young. The cubs emerge from the den at 3 weeks old, but will not accompany their parents on hunting expeditions until they are 8 weeks old. The group will remain together for up to 6 months, with the male cubs dispersing first.

Compared with other canids, the male fox is probably one of the most attentive and best providers of food during the denning period. Just before the birth of the whelps and while the female is spending her time nursing and caring for the litter, the male hunts for food for her. After 5 6 weeks, when the whelps are weaned, the female begins to share the hunting duties with her mate and gradually provides well over half of the food to the growing litter. Although the amount of food provided by the male gradually decreases, he continues to bring food to the den site until the whelps begin to leave the den about 14 15 weeks after birth.

The voice of the arctic fox is a sound rarely heard except during the breeding season. Courting foxes communicate with a barking yowl that may be heard over a great distance. Adults also yelp to warn their pups of danger and give a high-pitched undulating whine when disputing territorial claims with neighbouring foxes.

Snowy owls and golden eagles, as well as polar bears, wolverines, and red foxes all prey on arctic foxes, and humans and their dogs will kill them as well. They have been hunted extensively for their thick white fur in Iceland, and have even been captured and raised on fur farms. Diseases also take their toll, with rabies and distemper being the most common. Overall, the arctic fox is not threatened, and continues to thrive.

Arctic Fox-Cubs and Kits
Did You Know????. the arctic fox has the warmest fur of any mammal, even warmer than the polar bear and the arctic wolf. In fact, arctic foxes have fur on the bottom of their feet this helps to keep their feet warm and provide traction on the snow and ice

Arctic Fox
The arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) is found in treeless coastal areas of Alaska from the Aleutian Islands north to Point Barrow and east to the Canada border. Both blue and white color phases occur, with the blue phase more common on the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands. The white color phase is more common in northern litters. Young of each color phase may occur in the same litter.

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