How do Foxes Hunt in Winter when It Snows?


On a moonlit winter night or early winter morning in a field or at the edge of a forest, you can catch a fox doing a strange thing: it runs at a light trot, changing direction, then suddenly stops, tilts its head, then jumps right into the snow with its head, begins to dig a hole quickly… and beholds, in the front paw of a predator — a crushed mouse!

In the summer, everything is very clear — here’s a hole, here’s a mouse, just grab. But in winter, rodents hide behind a thick snow cover. In such conditions, finding mice and getting them is a rather hard task. But not for the fox. The hearing of predators is very thin. Foxes hear the rustle of rodents even under a half-meter layer of snow!

If you look at the fox before it jumps into the snow, you notice that it is gazing at it. No, it does not admire the sight of snow. The fox is looking for mice and voles hiding under the snow. These animals are a favorite treat for furry predators.

As soon as the prey betrays itself, the predator aims to jump up and falls with its muzzle right into the snow, grabbing the lurking prey. If all goes well, the fox crawls out of the snow with the rodent caught.

Thanks to its excellent hearing — the fox hears the squeak of a mouse at a distance of up to 100 meters — it reacts sensitively to the rustle of an animal moving under the snow, grabs it and kills it before finding out who it is. By mistake, it can catch both a shrew and a mole, but it will not eat them because of their specific smell.

If the snow is deep, foxes dig holes in search of mice. Such a hole looks like a funnel, at the bottom of which traces of hunting sometimes remain – drops of blood and shreds of wool.

The fox does not stop hunting under the snow, even when the snow is covered with a thin crust that can barely support its weight. Then the fox digs a narrow hole into which it falls almost completely: only the tail and hind legs are sticking out. The fox hunts for a very long time: it needs to catch two dozen mice or voles a day, to get enough. One fox kills several thousand rodents a year. And if the fox also takes its cubs to hunt, then together they catch two to three times more mice!

The life of the fox depends on the success of the “hunter’s leap”. The clearer it jumps, the higher the probability of catching a mouse, which means not to die of hunger.

It took millennia to perfect this technique. But thanks to trials, mistakes, and hundreds of broken noses, the foxes have learned to live well in the hungry winter season.

Sometimes foxes are lucky and don’t have to jump into the snow. But few mice dare to leave their snowy refuge. It turns out that foxes are extremely useful animals, both for the forest and humans!