Opinion: A long, cold winter reveals its beauty
By Carolyn Foote Edelmann
Friends and I have decided that an effective way to endure prolonged, serious cold is to begin a list of its benefits. Perhaps Times readers would like to try such a list and send in their suggestions.
I rejoice in the seamless cold because of new beauties that are revealed by its presence — everywhere, at all hours of the day and night. When skies are clear and gelid, starlight is blinding. The new moon and Venus have never looked more ravishing than while winking over endless snowfields on the outskirts of Pennington.
However, my No. 1 reason to be thankful is that sustained cold kills the microbes that cause mange in fox dens and, therefore, in foxes. This has been a serious problem at Island Beach State Park. Humans ignored multiple posted warnings not to feed the foxes. This practice teaches foxes to look to humans for food. It accustoms foxes to carbohydrates, when they are truly carnivores and require both the protein and the fat of their classic prey, mostly mice and voles. Human food lowers vulpine resistance to disease. If their dens are not sterilized by cold, the animals suffer enormously, losing their glorious fur and even their tails, and then they perish.
Prolonged cold alters the fate of foxes for the better. When it’s below freezing for several days, mange is banished from the foxes’ dens.
In addition, when Barnegat and Raritan Bays freeze, new, healthy foxes scamper across from the mainland, bringing vibrant strains to populations we have harmed by feeding what should never be tamed.
Being very much on the side of wild creatures, this long cold of ours makes me wonder if it might also help coyotes increase their territory. I live near the Pole Farm, in Lawrence. I have seen coyote scat there, right where it belongs, in the middle of trails. But I have yet to be blessed by an encounter with this four-legged wonder. Hiking the Pole Farm right now is like trying to navigate the rugged terrain of Italyy’s Carrara marble quarry, –that is, almost impossible. I cannot answer my coyote question.
Cold bestows another blessing. If it weren’t for snowfall after snowfall, I would not know that a fox visits my dwelling. There are straight, determined paths of tiny rose-like paw prints, one after another, that lead right up to the shrubs below my study window. So long as snow persists, fox signatures remain, right here.
Working as I do with the D & R Greenway Land Trust, preservation of habitat and creatures is paramount in my life. It is easy to become discouraged about both in this over-peopled 21st century. These cold blessings lift my heart.
I’m not saying that catastrophic climate change, including the cold weather we have been enduring lately, is good. I am proposing that there are miracles revealed by cold and snow of which we never otherwise would have a clue.
Carolyn Foote Edelmann, a poet, naturalist and community relations associate for the D and R Greenway Land Trust, writes and photographs for NJWildBeauty nature blog (njwildbeauty.wordpress.com).