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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Searching Out the Arctic Fox

Air Date: Week of

Arctic Fox (Bigstockphoto.com)

It's cold, and barren on Greenland’s west coast. But as writer Mark Seth Lender discovered, there is life there is you search it out carefully and listen closely.


CURWOOD: The west coast of Greenland, especially if you study it from the ocean, is barren and foreboding. Finding any sign of life takes time and patience, and as writer Mark Seth Lender discovered, you need an acute sense of hearing as well.

[Arctic Fox © 2014 Mark Seth Lender All Rights Reserved]

LENDER: White in the darkness Arctic Fox, crosses the outcrop, pads over lichen and spongy moss on her soft round feet onto the rounded hollow where a glacial river once bored through. White as fast ice, as snow fresh-fallen in the course of an afternoon, white as water (once was glacier) rushing and gushing toward the fjord far below.

Or is Fox velvety blue, dark as shadow in a crevasse deep in the cap ice, the shadow of a snow cloud as she trots along, head down, scenting her way through the blue gray of the land? Then feels her way down between the cobbles and the stones polished by the ebb and advance of a hard-frozen past; and never by a well-worn route, and never the same path twice.

All the fox cares about is “can I hide? Can I hide white in the air? Out on the tundra in a hundred knot gale? Along the brash ice piled on the beach where I hunt for spider crabs and fishes blown inshore? Can I hide high on the couloir where there are ptarmigan and arctic hare, stoking hunger, white on white, beast on pallid beast?”

Arctic Fox (Bigstockphoto.com)

Or does she think only of the blue dark, and the kills of eagle and gyrfalcon, of arctic wolf and polar bear, from which she steals her living at peril of her life…

There is a reason she puts herself in harm’s way. A reason every one of us understands: Here in her absence, from a small opening in the ground, down through the peat and silt left eons ago where she dug down making chambers and rooms, come the barking cries muted by the depth of the ground, of foxes, new to life, their eyes still closed, their voices begging for the comfort of her care, and that their hunger will cease. Sure, in their core, that nothing – not tooth not claw not sleet like steel shot tearing the air - nothing will stop her. And if it should, some untoward thing, that she will visit in their dreams.


CURWOOD: Mark Seth Lender recorded these baby foxes in their den. He visited Greenland with Adventure Canada. To see some of his photos, burrow into our website, LOE.org.



Mark Seth Lender's website


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