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26   COMMISSION OF CONSERVATION

The following is a summary of the best conditions for fox-ranching operations:

  1. Foxes should be ranched in woodland areas in a climate cold enough to produce a heavy fur and overhair.

  2. The value of the pelt depends on good health as well as on climatic conditions. Wholesome varied food is a necessary condition for health and can be best secured in a thickly-settled rural district.

  3. Foundation stock should be the best obtainable. The best foxes are those in captivity in ranches, and they have the additional advantage of being half-domesticated.

There are some advantages to be gained by conducting extensive ranching operations in one locality, particularly because breeding animals may be easily exchanged and the dangers of close, or in-breeding, prevented. Neighbours can also impart to one another more freely what their experience has taught them. These advantages, however, may be offset by the difficulties of securing food for the foxes. In every rural township there is enough cheap meat and offal to supply flesh diet to scores of foxes,but not to hundreds. Several hundred foxes, therefore, in one neighbourhood, would necessitate the purchase of costly meat. An ordinary farm has enough waste meat scrap, dripping, bread, biscuits and game to support several animals.

 

A wooded area, not subject to flooding, and where the A woodland snow does not pile up in deep drifts in winter, is best Site adapted for the site of the ranch. The subsoil should be a hardpan to prevent deep burrowing and escape under the fences. Areas which produce a growth of birch, spruce, fir and cedar, with heath plants and blueberries in the open areas, have usually a good turfy cover and a hardpan subsoil near the surface. In such a situation it is easy to erect pens as the fences have only to be extended down to hardpan to prevent the foxes from burrowing under and escaping. A sandy soil and subsoil, on the other hand, entails an additional expense, as they can burrow to depths of six feet or more. A family of foxes working one behind the other will relay earth out of a sandy hole in a veritable shower. In ordinary loam, the fence is not considered safe unless it extends down a depth of over three feet and is founded on a subsoil of considerable hardness.

Proximity to the dwelling of the keeper is also an important consideration. This is usually accomplished by building the ranch in a woodland lot a few hundred yards distant from the house, or, if the ranch is a considerable distance from the owner's dwelling, by building


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