"I'm the Tod. Tod, ye know? Canniest Tod on Moss an' Moor."
-The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams
Richard Adams is one of my favorite authors. If you know him at all, it's probably for his classic Watership Down, a fictional tale about the adventures of a group of rabbits living in the Brittish Countryside. The group decides one day to leave their home and find a new one, only to constantly dodge death as the result of run-ins with predators, humans, and a disturbing rival group of militant rabbits. These rabbits come from a "warren" called Efrafra, and they make strong attempts to assimilate the protagonist rabbits. There's no way I can describe the book without it sounding silly. But trust me, it's incredible.......even riveting. Complete with a rabbit (named Fiver) plagued by visions of the future, and the nasty leader of the Efrafran rabbits (that is rumored to have survived a run-in with a dog) named General Woundwort. To put Adams' ability as a writer into perspective: the character of General Woundwort is more intimidating than Darth Vader, and that alone should be reason enough to read this book.... :)
But, my goal in this was not to discuss Watership Down, but one of Adams' other novels called The Plague Dogs. This story centers on a pair of dogs (Snitter and Rowlf) who escape from a research facility in England, where they have been experimented on and mistreated. Snitter, for example, has had repeated brain surgeries, that have led to his inability to separate reality from halucination. He also has visions of the future and vivid flashbacks. The two dogs survive in the wild for a time with the help of a Red Fox named simply The Tod, who speaks with a northeastern English dialect/accent. Eventually, however, the dogs and the Tod are spotted killing sheep and branded by the media as a danger to humans. At which point a "man-hunt" begins, which only escalates as folks determine the dogs have escaped from a research facility and may be carrying a bioweapon (plague). The book is incredible....often depressing, but also very riveting.
He also has some fairly memorable quotes, such as:
"Yer lookin' for me? The way yer runnin' I thought yer arse was a' fire."
Eventually, fate catches up with The Tod when a group of humans and hounds come (attempting to kill the dogs due to their rumored connection to a bioweapon). The less-experienced Rowlf and Snitter are nearly captured. The Tod uses all of his tricks to distract the hunters and save the dogs, but is cornered and killed in the process.
"Us tods, we're used to runnin', 'till the dark comes, anyway..... That's the place where you stop runnin' for good."
The Tod was very active on the cameras we're using in lab over the last week and we finally got some decent pictures of him (or her).
We were on hiatus during week 5, and as I mentioned last time, our week 6 lab involved checking some cameras and setting up an experiment that I'll post some results from in the future.
Week 7 was for housekeeping. We updated our experiments started in Week 6 (more to come), and we moved the camera traps deployed during Week 1. This provided two functions: 1). it allows us to increase our sample size; 2) the students basically sucked at finding spots on their own during week 1. This is to be expected and all part of the learning process. After 6 weeks, they have hopefully learned what care and attention to detail can provide (i.e., put in some work, and actually get some wildlife pics as your pay-back). Thus, moving the cameras allowed them to redeem themselves for some of the crummy spots they picked before.
A few spots looked very promising. One group uncovered the left-overs of a Tod/bunny interaction (i.e. hasenfeffer).
The critter (that we're assuming was a Tod, but just as likely a Coyote), went through alot of work to dig this rabbit out of its burrow under the roots of a big red oak.
But once he got in, the bunny was trapped and all we found was fur......
The Tod was apparently everywhere last week.....recorded on 2 of 6 cameras, potentially found in a different location near the oak tree above, and was also leaving tracks along the far eastern edge of the property (below).