Late for Nowhere

From life in Southeast Asia to backyard adventures in Kodiak, Alaska

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Kodiak backyard hikes: A spine-tingling animal encounter

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Kodiak Island is a wild place. My wife Pauksi and I never set foot in the forest without carrying bear spray, and rare is the bike ride outside of town when I don’t spot at least one Sitka black-tailed deer crossing the road.

During a hike last weekend, we had an unusual encounter with a wary species of mammal that, up to that point, we had not yet seen on the island.

We started our walk by heading for Pillar Mountain, the base of which is only a few blocks away from our apartment. The sun was shining, and the temperature in town was cool but had not quite dipped below freezing during the night. As we gained elevation, though, we saw more frost as well as a few puddles topped with an icy glaze.

We hiked about three-quarters of the way up the 1,240-foot (378-meter) peak on the gravel access road, and then followed a forest path that branched off to the north and descended for a mile to a paved road leading out to White Sands Beach.

Another half mile of pavement walking brought us to a dirt lane leading not to White Sands Beach, which was 5 miles farther along the paved road, but to a coastal cove with black volcanic sand that we had previously seen from the mountaintop but had never visited.

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After spending an hour or so eating lunch and hanging out at the beach, we set out to return home the same way we had come.

While walking back along the short stretch of paved road, I spotted movement in the bushes bordering the left shoulder up ahead. At first, I thought it was a small dog, but when the animal stepped out onto the road, I saw that it was a red fox. In its teeth was what appeared to be the spine of a rather large animal, which it was laboriously dragging across the road.

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My wife and I stopped and watched from afar, but when the fox reached the other side of the road, it suddenly noted our presence, dropped its prize, and scampered up a steep embankment into the forest.

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We slowly walked forward, stopping to look at the spine, which appeared fresh and bloody. I thought it might have belonged to a deer but wasn’t sure. I couldn’t imagine how a fox could have taken down such a large animal, and thought it more likely that the deer had been killed by a bear or hit by a car.   

As we contemplated these possibilities, we realized the fox was still there, sitting motionless and observing us from the trees with its sharp, intelligent eyes. Was it merely curious, or was it waiting for us to leave so it could come back down and reclaim its food? For a few minutes, we watched the animal watching us. Then we moved on, retracing our steps over the mountain and back down to our neighborhood on the other side.

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Written by latefornowhere

October 24, 2020 at 6:13 pm