ever, disagree with this common opinion and say that one year and eight months is the proper age at which to kill them.
The fox when young, has less silver than in later years and this is an advantage in the present market, silver skins being more common than pure black. It is hardly necessary to remark that no fox should be slaughtered without a careful examination of his coat, and, if it be light and thin and the fox only a pup, he should be spared for a year in order to improve his condition if possible.
Considerable care should be taken against injury to the coat during the months previous to killing. They should not be allowed to lie on damp places and thus have the guard hair frozen into the ground or snow and broken. Smooth, large passageways should be provided. Fleas or mange or other skin affections or parasites should be prevented as they would induce scratching and thus wear off the hair on the shoulders and hips.
It is claimed that heavy feeding of nutritious laxative food like molasses, patent food preparations, boiled barley or oats, will fatten the fox and improve the gloss of its coat. Some of the costliest skins marketed were taken off foxes with one quarter of an inch of fat over their ribs. This is contrary to a popular, but incorrect, impression that starving makes the hair longer and improves the coat.
Foxes are killed by crushing the chest walls. They are placed on their sides, and the slaughterer places the sole of his foot immediately behind the foreleg and bears down with his full weight. They are also killed by forcing the head back until the neck breaks. There is a danger that the sheen of the overhair—especially the silver hairs—may be somewhat injured with blood and dirt so that clean quarters and methods of killing are essential.
The information available indicates that the adoption of some more humane method of killing, such as the use of chloroform or ether, would not injure the fur and, at the same time, be far more merciful. A small padded box with a wad of cotton batting in one of the upper corners upon which chloroform could be dropped from a hole in the corner of the box would be all that would be required. As soon as it is dead, the animal should be removed from the chamber. In the case of such a valuable animal as this, it is not too much to expect of ranchers that they pro-vide one of these inexpensive lethal chambers.
Poisons that are available are: cyanide of potassium, prussic acid, strychnine and white arsenic. A very small quantity of cyanide or of prussic acid will kill the fox instantly, but, as these drugs are excessively poisonous, it is dangerous to have them in one's possession unless