”The Arctic fox (Alopex lagapus L.) is a circumpolar species, living along the coast of the Arctic Ocean, on all Arctic islands, and in the tundras of Europe, Asia and Amerika.
In general it is very versatile in its choice of food. In its breeding period, it is linked to its special biotopes, but in winter it seeks nourishment in widely different ways and roams far and wide for berries, Ptarmigan, and Lemmings, as well as for the fish, bivalves, and crustaceans, etc. of the littoral zone. It is to be found inland, and high in the mountains, along coasts, on islands, and on the drift-ice far at sea, and in the middle of Greenland’s ice cap. -Chr. Vibe, 1967
Foxes were also found in the Godthåbsfjord. When the sun sets and one lays in ones tent one can hear their small barks echoing in the valley surrounded by mountains. They leave traces by our camp, chewing on our tent pegs, making a mess of our garbage and sending Henrik (our field dog) out barking, scolding them to keep away.
Foxes have been important for the Inuit, among others the Thule Culture.
They would be hunted because of their meat but mostly for their fur.
In the early days it was only as self supply but when one could earn money, 40 to 50 dkr. by selling the skins to the Royal Greenland Trade Department, the extent of the hunting of foxes exploded. This is also visible in the cultural landscapes. Once travelling with Vittus, an old hunter, he showed us how to build the trap.
Step One -and the must important;
“You have to think like a fox”
Fox traps related to this trade were at the tidal zone, just down to the fjord. Here the empty the traps fast either by boat or by traveling on ice in the winter. These traps we found in 2012 laying few meters apart. First we did not understand why there was so many until the hunters told us during our travels with them.
“The Kangersuneq fjord was mainly used in the winter because of the fast fjord ice, whereas the ice was too unpredictable in the summer. In the winter we used the fjord in connection with the hunting of seals, hares, foxes, ptarmigan and caribou. There are many fox traps along the coasts of the Kangersuneq. Ptarmigans were of great importance to the trapping of foxes because they were used as bate. In general fox trap hunting was very important to the local families and formed the basis for most of their income. Hunting foxes began in October and lasted until the middle of March.”
-Old hunter from Qassinnguit
Further up in the landscapes of our survey area we find other fox traps. In winter they lay clear from the snow.
-And in summer they stood majestic on cliffs and shelves.
Typologically these were different. Their entrances were unique; they were built solidly and beautifully
–engaging time and effort.
These traps tell a story from another time. They tell a story of how people travelled 750 years ago. They tell a story of the first travels of our ancestor in Greenland, in these environmental settings.
Buy looking at how they are built;
-the size of lichens
-and by finds close by, as this shoulder blade drilled with small holes. A technique related to the early Thule culture.
-We were taken back in time. To a time were the first Thule people set their foot in this area.
“In the past one would mainly hunt the foxes in winter, even during the dark period when many other activities had ceased. By this time, foxes had grown thick, warm fur that was prized for clothing”
This was amplified by the placement of the traps we found. First of all the area was easy to access passing the ice from the first Thule winter settlement in the fjord. These traps not being covered by snow were visible and easy to find. They lay close to caribou paths visible in summer but also in winter, as caribou wandered along.
The extent of fox traps stopped right were the Greenland ice cap had carved its way, today leaving a landscapes shaved from vegetation and leaving a moon landscape behind, -this indicating that the ice sheet and glacier had stretched its way to the valley were the fox traps stopped, the fox maybe being the messenger of past environments