Stránka:book 1922.djvu/329

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Natural History 299 This morning I took up another fox- trail. The frost was intense, the snow was dry and powdery and as each foot was raised it fell back; so that the track was merely shapeless dimples in the whiteness. No tell-tale details of toes and claws were there, but still I knew it for a fox-trail. It was too small for a coyote. There were but two others that might have been confounded with it; one a very large house-cat, the other a very small house- dog. The fox has the supple paw of the cat. It spreads even more, but it shows the long, intractile claws. As a stepper the fox ranks close to the cat. His trail is noted also for its narrowness — that is, the feet are set nearly in one straight Hne. This in a trail usually means a swift animal; while the badly spread marks, seen at a maximum in the badger, stand for great but sluggish strength. (Illustra- tion 10.) The region put the cat out of the reckoning. Besides, at one or two places, the paw had grazed the snow, showing two long furrows, the marks of claws that do not sheathe: dog-marks, perhaps, but never a cat's. The marks were aligned hke a cat's, but were fourteen inches apart, while it is rare for a cat to step more than ten. They were not dog-marks: first, the probabilities were against it; second, the marks were nearly in a Hne, showing a chest too narrow for a dog. Then the toes did not drag, though there was four inches of snow. The register could not be distinguished, but there was one feature that settled all doubt — the big, soft, shallow marks of the fox's brush, sometimes sweeping the snow at every yard, sometimes not at all for fifty steps, and telling me with certainty, founded in part on the other things — "This is the trail of a fox." Which way is he going? is the next question, not easy