As you drive around in Hokkaido, you are most likely to meet up with the Hokkaido (or Ezo) Red fox.
Although they look cuddly in the fluffy winter coats, be careful not to touch them as they could be infected by the echinococcosis parasite. They feed mainly on rats, birds and insects but switch to fruits and nuts in the autumn time.
In winter time, they can be spotted around the many of the tourist spots such as the Lake Akan area as they rely on the kind-hearted tourists to feed them.
I am reminded of the visit to the Fushimi Inari shrine in my visit to Kyoto in the summer. Here the main entrance is graced by two large stone statues of foxes. A lot of symbolism goes into these two statues and I was informed that the huge bushy tails symbolise bountiful harvests of rice. The jewel in the mouth of one of the fox statues symbolise the fox deity’s spirit and the key in the mouth of the other status symbolises attained wealth.
You can learn more about the Red foxes from this video about a pair of mother and daughter vixens as they bring up their pups.
Another place where we were alerted to the presence of a red fox by a wildlife guide was when we were driving along the thin strip of land in the Notsuke Peninsula. Here right at the end of the road, coach-loads of tourists can be seen feeding the elusive red fox as it scuttles from bus to another in search of tourists, err… I mean food.
The Notsuke Peninsula is also the place where you can find hoards Sika deer grazing in the marshlands flanking both sides of the peninsula. This prawn-shaped peninsula is made up of a sandbar that is about 26 km in length, making it the longest sandbar in Japan. Notsuke in the ancient Ainu language means “the lower jawbone” as it is shaped like the lower jawbone of a whale.
Also known as the Spotted deer or the Japanese deer, the fur coat of the Sika deer at the winter time becomes darker and the spots become less prominent. It is active throughout the day and is wary to human interference. As such it is very easy to get up close for a photograph provided you take gentle movements as you advance, keeping as quiet as you possibly can.
The Sika deer reminds of the “bowing deer” in the Nara Prefecture, during my visit the the Todai-ji temple there in the summer. Here they are considered as messengers of the Shinto gods.
It is M.K. Wong's dream to visit at least 50 countries before his feet can carry him no more. With over 35 countries under his belt, M.K. is planning for his next escapade.