The North York Moors received a small covering of snow last night and this morning the Game Keepers were out using it to their advantage to trace/track foxes.
Foxes are one of the main predators to all the ground nesting birds, chicks and eggs. The Red Grouse benefit greatly from the predator control undertaken by the gamekeepers but so do many other birds including Curlew, Golden Plover, Ring Ouzel, Merlin and Lapwings, so this predator control is helping the population of many of these Red Listed species too.
The Game Keepers track/trace and follow the foxes footprints in the snow to see where they live, hunt and sleep, sometimes this can take only minutes but more than often it is an all day job covering many miles. Foxes are very heavy sleepers and it is not unusual to actually walk up to foxes sleeping in the heather as they do not all live underground.
Many keepers also have terrier dogs to assist them in this method of predator control, if the footprints lead to a hole the terrier will be put down the hole, this will hopefully cause the fox to bolt out. The Game Keepers outside the hole can then immediately shoot the fox when it surfaces and then humanely despatch. This is a legal act and an essential part of Moorland management.