Red Fox and Red-tailed Hawk | News, Sports, Jobs


IMAGES BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — Predators come in all sizes. For today’s column, the red fox and red-tailed hawk are just a small sample of animals whose lives depend on finding prey to eat. In Mother Nature’s scheme of things, to survive, everyone must hunt for food. Locating food is different from capturing food. Once captured, consumption can take place. Eating is ultimately the process by which energy in one form is transformed into energy to sustain life in another form. Predation is the biological interaction where one organism, the predator, kills and eats another organism, its prey. Each predator is highly specialized for its role as a hunter using acute sight, hearing, or smell, and then the fangs or talons take over the eating process.

Predation: This is an essential part of life, whether in the giving of life and death to wildlife, or in a more constrained role of breeding and feeding. Ultimately, one life form is used to sustain the lives of others.

This process of predation has been going on for hundreds of millions of years, if not billions, as organisms adapted to the environments of their time to live another day, and those days turned into eons and millennia all over the world. surface of the earth.

Some of the earliest predators were microbial organisms. They “brush” against each other and each other in primordial frames. The fossil record demonstrates a long history of very small creatures, with or without shells, leaving traces on the ancient muds of the ocean floor.

When these ancient ocean slimes solidified into rocky layers over geologic time and were eventually exposed to mankind’s investigative efforts, stories began to emerge of the hide-and-seek efforts of predators trying to find prey to eat. Early predators adapted bone-like plates to crush the shells of bivalves and gastropod molluscs. Certain appendages have developed to grasp the prey, hold it and allow the prey to be eaten.

The world’s early oceans had many small, medium, and large fish, focusing all of their survival efforts on hunting small creatures. Today, museums hold fossil record specimens of some gigantic fish such as Dunkleosteus, a plated bony head of a large fish, its jaws toothless but with incredible power to crush hard-shelled animals or anything he could catch. This fish reached a length of 20 feet and lived during the Silurian and Devonian geological periods. It was a top predator in the food chain of its time.

Giant-sized insects flew during the Early Carboniferous to Late Devonian periods. Flight helped these insects avoid falling prey to fish or other aerial predators. Yet at the same time, dragonflies with a two-foot-wide wingspan were a top predator over other smaller insects, and we’ve all seen replicas of the skeletons of other top predators from the Cretaceous period, those dinosaurs theropods such as Tyrannosaurus rex, a meat eater that hunted and killed herbivorous dinosaurs like hadrosaurs, ceratopsians and ankylosaurs.

Studying the incredible diversity of animal interactions at all levels of the food chain reveals a cycle through which the continuum of life continues. A predator must assess a possible food source after a successful search and then decide whether or not to pursue it.

If the answer is yes, then the process may be to wait in ambush or stalk in range to kill. Once captured, the prey must first be manipulated to hold it, then kill it, then break it down into manageable pieces and consume its nutrients.

Insects may be small, but they have to eat. Examples could be fleas or mosquitoes that consume the blood of other living animals, or aphids that consume plant sap. These do not kill the host, so we humans call them parasites. Animals that eat seeds, they eat a life form in its entirety.

Some seeds do cross and if they fall in the right soil conditions, they can take root. Another form of predation is called scavenging, eating something that is already dead. Red-headed vultures come to mind in this case. A jackal or African plains hyena are opportunists, scavengers if it works, or initially killing if it works.

A bird like the red-tailed hawk is a hunter. Its sharp vision is essential for locating food sources large enough to be worth your effort and not too large to injure yourself. The talons on its toes are the tools to perform the killing or gripping actions. The ticket will be used to make the last call by breaking the neck of a vole, mouse, rabbit or snake.

A red fox uses its formidable abilities of smell and hearing to locate mice, voles, rabbits or snakes. Even through 30 inches of deep snow, a fox can listen and identify the movements of a mouse moving through its grass-lined tunnels at ground level and peer closely into the pupils of the fox’s eyes in today’s photo today.

The fox’s pupil is vertical, or more like a cat’s, and these eyes allow a fox to be a good nocturnal predator and hunter. Foxes can sense the earth’s magnetic field. They can run 45 mph. An adult can weigh 20 to 24 pounds, and their thick fur can help them survive temperatures down to -40 F. An omnivorous diet helps them find many types of food, and the red fox has around 40 barks , cries, yelps or different calls. he can do when communicating with other foxes.

Predators and prey are natural enemies. Keep in mind that perhaps one in 10 attempts by a predator to kill a prey species is successful. Keep in mind that the prey is not helpless or without its own tactics and tricks to escape this predator.

In this give-and-take scenario of trying to live, the predators succeed just enough times to earn a living, and the prey species manage in the long run to avoid becoming a meal for the predator just enough times to stay alive. Together, this system is a demonstration that predation is an essential part of life.


River recreation by canoe or kayak is a popular summer activity. From now on, the Iowa River flows slowly and low, but not too low, to float the watercraft of choice, canoe or kayak. Emerging sandbanks begin to appear above the waterline.

When paddling, you have to look and read the “dark” water to know that is where the deepest waters are for effective paddling strokes. The current will meander back and forth through the river channel.

Always be careful not to get too close to ice jams on tight bends in the river. Here, the current can and will try to pull the watercraft and you under the surface of the water. There have already been too many water recreation incidents and a few fatalities in Iowa this summer. Safety is a permanent need on the water.

Approximately 29 miles of the Iowa River flows through Marshall County from the Hardin County line to the Tama County line. Boat ramp access points can be used in Forest Preserve, Timmons Grove, Riverview Park, Furrow Access and Three Bridges County Park.


The Hunter Safety Course, the final hands-on in-person classroom instruction for 2022, will take place on August 18, a Thursday evening from 6-9 p.m. and the following Saturday, August 20, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., at Marshall Grounds of the Izaak Walton County League near Marshalltown.

The course was posted on the Iowa DNR website where people are encouraged to search, register, and then reserve those dates and times. Those wishing to attend must register. The website is

Hunter safety courses are mandatory for students under 18. The course is designed to help teach safe firearms skills and handling techniques. This course was mandated by the 1997 Iowa legislative session. Students learn concepts of conservation history, conservation practices to help wildlife populations, types of firearms, and safety considerations for each. Videos and films, live firing on the range with individual instructors, an archery demonstration and a chat with Game Warden Tyson Brown will be featured.


Quote: “When we try to pick something out on its own, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” —John Muir


Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.

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