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Foxes Hunt with Magnetic Alignment

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I'm always amazed at the obscure things people find to research.  Some European scientists did a study on how red foxes hunt and discovered that they may use the earth's magnetic field as a sort of range finder.

It was discovered that foxes tend to prepare to jump at their prey in long vegetation or snow with their body aligned in a north-easterly direction (about 20° clockwise from magnetic north).  Researchers say their findings suggest that foxes may be attacking their prey using magnetic alignment.  Professor Hynek Burda (of Germany) hypothesizes that the fox can sense the magnetic northerly direction as a patch of dark or light.  In the northern hemisphere the magnetic field tilts downwards below the horizontal at an angle of 60-70°, so the fox edges forward until the point at which the angle of the sound from the prey meets the slope of the magnetic field.  At that point the intended target is a fixed jump distance away.

Other animals are known to be able to sense magnetic fields.  Burda’s other research showed that herds of cows and deer tend to align in a north-south direction, except when grazing under high-voltage power lines, which produce strong magnetic fields.

If foxes do in fact have a "sixth sense" for magnetic fields, I wonder if they have any ability to detect a magnetic disturbance from a buried metal object, like a foothold trap?  I swear I've had a few traps dug up that were so solidly bedded and concealed I was sure the guilty critter must have had ESP.

Read the full story here


  1. I just left Ian's blog to come over here.....I loved your guest post about trapping. I'm from Delaware and we don't have much coyote but we started trapping fox last year so your post was quite informative for me. I'm getting ready to dig into your archives but I love what I've read so far.

  2. Thanks for visiting LB! I wish you the best in your trapping adventures. Please stop back and let me know how you're doing!