My Site Steward partner and I monitor Forest Service (FS) land in a canyon with about 35 sites ranging in age from 10,000 BC to 1880’s AD.
We hiked into a site and found a scattering of bones along a low ridge, but only one skull. We collected it and took to the Osteology department at University of Arizona (UofA) to be identified. We were told it was small canine, probably fox.
We notified our FS contact; told him about the bones and fox skull as ID by UofA.
A FS law enforcement officer met me outside of Tucson for the drive to the canyon. He spoke little, was grumpy but did say a helicopter was to be in the canyon to do aerial reconnaissance of the entire canyon's Creek.
I hiked the FS lawman to the site of the bones. We could hear the helicopter over head then saw it flying low along the many twists and turns of the Creek.
At the bone site, without a word, he dropped down into a small wash and was gone.
Feeling deserted, I roamed the site and saw a plant I had never seen before. Marijuana!
I sat on the bank of the wash for about 30 minutes awaiting his return and sitting there I noticed a rattlesnake about 6 feet from me. I scooted off to the side.
As he came down the wash I called to him, “Watch the rattler.” He was shocked that I wasn’t all shook up!
He said all the foxholes along this small wash were empty - spider webbed covered or were caved in. In other words, they were unused - abandoned.
The helicopter crew radio-reported to him they thought all the fox dens were empty along the Creek too. They had found more piles of bones! Piles and piles of bones along the entire Creek.
Their analysis for the canyon: all foxes had been killed - hunted for their pelts, “For sale to the Army for cold weather parkas,” he told me.
It has been ten + years and we have yet to see an active fox den.
Oh the marijuana plant?
He laughed and said, “Not even cows would touch that noxious weed!”