Recently Jason Bittel over at National Geographic delved into a video from Canada's Hudson Bay of a snowy owl and Arctic fox "dancing" together, part of a roughly week-long series of interactions between the feathered and furred rivals back in November 2012.

Well, we've got some related action to share with you, this time from the more southerly but still snowbound Canadian setting of Cobourg, Ontario, where in the wee hours of January 4 a red fox prowling the town's waterfront found itself face to face with a snowy owl.

The pretty delightful encounter was caught on security-cam video, which the Town of Cobourg shared on YouTube:

The engagement begins with the fox getting boldly buzzed by the snowy. A bit jazzed up, the bottlebrush-tailed canid tries to get a bead on its aerial bully, but then trots out of frame. A moment later, the owl lands in the snow, and the fox returns to investigate. Cue a couple of minutes of cautious, inquisitive circling on the part of the fox and hardcore stare-downs on the part of the owl, which crouches defensively when its antagonist gets close but otherwise seems content to do a whole lump-on-a-log routine.

The fox leaves a weaving calligraphy of tracks during its investigation before eventually losing interest – but the clip ends with the owl flying off in the direction of the fox's exit, so who knows whether this one-on-one hangout session was actually over or not.

In the case of the Arctic fox and snowy owl from 2012, the animals' interaction was a bit more energetic; as Bittel explained, it looked a little like playing, but may have more likely been a competitive standoff between two devoted lemming-hunters. "They're trying to defend their territories," Stockholm University professor and Swedish Arctic Fox Project head Anders Angerbjörn told Bittel. "They really don't like each other."

In the Cobourg incident, meanwhile, which of course played out in a somewhat less severe environment than the wind-scoured tundra, curiosity may have been more the motivating factor. The owl's strafe of the fox wasn't likely a serious attack, as a full-grown red fox – larger than (and dominant over) its Arctic relative – is a bit on the hefty and toothy side for a snowy, powerful as the bird is. (Snowy owls, though, are well known for dive-bombing creatures large and small that stray too near their nests.)

The fox, in turn, would likely have its paws full trying to prey on an owl of this size (and spunk). Both critters certainly seemed keen on engaging with one another, but whether it was out of playfulness, boredom or long-shot predatory assessment – well, we can't say.

It's worth noting that red foxes and owls do fall on one another's menus from time to time. A study from Belarus showed red foxes preyed on Ural, tawny and Tengmalm's (or boreal) owls, and in turn were sometimes taken out by Eurasian eagle-owls, among the biggest and most formidable of all owls. The North American representative of the eagle-owl clan, the similarly hardcore great horned owl, probably occasionally snacks on fox kits; meanwhile, in one unusual case from Wisconsin, a red fox apparently killed an adult horned owl it chanced upon on the ground.

Given the Eurasian eagle-owl's size and weaponry, it's risky business for a red fox to raid its nest, but footage from last year in Denmark shows it going down (when an eagle-owl parent is on the nest, though, this kind of predation is a much taller order):



Top header image: Pixabay