Into the Wild


What Happened Here?

You’ve found the leftovers from a fox feast. Red foxes often dig nursery dens under brush piles for their babies. Mom and pop bring food back to the hungry kits. Whatever isn’t eaten — like bones and fur — gets dropped outside the den.


Scan the branches of nearby trees, and you might catch a glimpse of a Cooper’s or sharp shinned hawk. These bird-eating hunters sometimes perch near brush piles to ambush songbirds.

Do More

Brush piles create instant homes for critters. To build one, ask an adult to cut down branches and small trees. Stack the thickest branches at the bottom and pile smaller branches on top. Keep stacking until you have a tangly pile about head high and 20 feet wide.


When the weather turns chilly, birds start looking extra floofy. That’s because they can’t pull on puffy coats when they get cold. Instead, they fluff up their feathers to trap warm air against their skin.


Weeds growing in a brush pile offer a buffet for seed-eating sparrows. Most sparrow species look alike at first glance. But if you watch a flock carefully, you’ll soon spot differences in the colors and patterns of individual birds.

Did You Know?

In frigid weather, striped skunks curl up in dens for power naps that may last several weeks. During these supersized slumbers, the chubby mammals burn fat like marathon runners. Female skunks, in particular, may drop 40 percent of their weight.

Take a Closer Look

Most mammals come out at night, so you may not see many in the flesh and fur. But if you search the ground around a brush pile, you’ll find footprints that offer clues about who’s living inside.


Eastern cottontails are usually quiet. But when they’re captured by a hawk or another predator, they let loose a loud wail.

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