A Bestiary: Part Five – Red Fox

 It is a rather bleak and chilly January morning, when I happily sight this striking red fox making her way into the 2009 winter fields and gardens.Yet another wild beast to thrill this observer.

Flower Hill Farm’s ‘A Bestiary’ continues with the Vulpes vulpes vixen — at least I want to believe this to be a female red fox, so that I can place those three v words together. I have only observed this feisty beast from afar . . . no growls or personal encounters (I have not tamed it!) to date, but I still feel the magic of the moments, when I chanced to see a red fox entering the fields and gardens.

It is not unusual for a red fox to be out in the daylight but they are known to be more active at night . . . at dawn and dusk. They do not hibernate, though I have read that captive foxes do get about 9 hours of sleep a day . . . sigh . . . to dream for . . .  but I cannot imagine a wild fox being able to sleep that much. I guess fox naps count.

The ‘black stockings’ are one of the telltale features that mark the red fox from the gray fox . . . it’s white tipped-tail is another characteristic often noted but not necessarily in all red foxes.

You can almost imagine the thoughts of this red fox, as she stands still surveying the surrounding area. She might be considering . . .  “Is it safe to continue towards the people shelter?”

I am standing camera in hand, next to a slightly opened door . . . hidden somewhat behind a long white curtain.

It seems to me that this vixen eyes me quite intently but for some reason is not threatened, for she does not run away. Caution, however, does hold her frozen in the frigid environment and perhaps she wonders if she might tame me. A decisive ‘No’ must be the motive for the eventual swift exit from the garden . . . my human presence is heedfully noted and rightly not trusted. Earlier, I mention I had no encounter with this beast as yet, but surely this is in someway . . . a meeting of minds.

It is just about breeding time for the fox and perhaps that stimulates the appetite and brings her ‘closer in’  . . . to hopefully harvest a rabbit. I certainly wish her luck in that fox delicacy.

This handsome vixen or dog (I lean towards the male this time due to its larger size.) comes close to the barn studio in early April of 2010. I delight in seeing him sniffing out the vole holes but neither of us has the good luck to observe one that day.

The photo above reminds me of his Canis latrans cousin.  Native American mythology weaves tales of the coyote and fox as companions and co-creators of the world. In reality any fox is more apt to avoid coyotes, for their larger cousin has been known to kill foxes. I have not seen a red or gray fox in a couple of years and perhaps it is due to the healthy coyote population here and in the surrounding forests. I have often seen two coyotes together and that combination is even more deadly to a fox.

Another look . . . red fox eye contact . . . my way . . .  and yet not running away.

One can see how its fluffy tail might keep the fox warm when curled up sleeping.

It is exciting to watch this intelligent, solitary and  “. . . very pretty to look at”  hunter moving gracefully about the field. A red fox has keen hearing and can hear its preferred prey scrambling below the earth surface. I guess the voles and mice were pretty quiet this day.

I have never noticed a fox talking to a crow, as in Aesop’s Fables, but was drawn into an animated dialogue, the summer of 2010, between Baltimore Orioles and some creature I could not see at the time.

Walking outdoors, to get a better look and understanding of what was amiss . . . I catch sight of a flash of red-orange . . .  fleeing through the grass and shrubs, which speaks loudly of fox.

Indeed the flash of red does belong to a red fox, but it is too quickly gone for me to capture a quality photo.

Walking back over to the area and having a good look about, I discover why the parents were so frantic.  Beneath the Black Cherry tree the parents were calling out from, I do not find a piece of cheese to tempt the red fox, but a tiny Baltimore Oriole fledgling hidden beneath some bishops weed*, might have been a delicious snack.

(* This is the only time I was thankful for the horrid invasive plant.)

Though I value the fox greatly, I admit to being happy the little bird escapes its jaws. Here at Flower Hill Farm there are plenty of voles, mice, rabbits and assorted fruits and insects to satisfy any red fox . . .  for being omnivores they enjoy variety and even hunt when satiated . . . storing food much as we do. The little Baltimore Oriole fledgling escapes becoming part red fox and all becomes peaceful again . . . for the moment . . . within the realm of green. I am sure the red fox came upon some other hearty morsel . . .  to munch upon . . .  or put away for another day.

Deception is a word often used as a synonym for fox . . . foxy being defined as devious, scheming, calculating et cetera. Words are powerful and can help form prejudice towards a person or beast making one seem worthless and wrongly justifying injustice.

Foxes are beasts, who happened to be predators  . . .  simply going about their beastly ways . . . surviving in both urban and rural habitats.  Can we fault a wild animal for hunting as it is meant to? I think not. Human pets and domesticated animals of any sort should be carefully protected from the wild beasts that have roamed the land for millions of years. The red fox is our earthly companion and surely plays an important role in the balance of nature. I rather favor Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s portrayal of the red fox in his classic tale ‘The Little Prince’ . . . one of my favorite books for children of all ages.

Anthropomorphic tales are fine in their way, but mostly I believe we should respect the wild . . .  as wild . . .  and honor wildlife as such.

© 2012, Carol Duke. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. says

    Carol,

    You have the most wonderful beasts visiting you. And I marvel at your ability and skill in geting even the most cautious of creatures on “film”. Great job.

    On the very few occasions (2?), I’ve been blessed to see a red fox in the wild, I’m always struck by how small they are around here. Oftentimes they seem to be no larger than a very large house cat.

    Thanks again for sharing this with us.

    Hal
    Hal Mann recently posted..The Pony has Arrived

  2. says

    Carol our favorite beast visit is from our male fox, Axl. He is gorgeous with striking tall black socks on all 4 legs and a stunning tail…we have seen pairs as well, but Axl is our favorite and comes as close as the meadow…we have never seen him jump the picket fence like the brazen deer, but I would be OK with that if he wants the voles…lots to eat around us and I think he has helped keep the bunny population down. Fabulous tale…I too feel we need to respect the wild creatures whose territory we are sharing…
    Donna@ Gardens Eye View recently posted..The Climate Conscious Gardener

  3. says

    I live in a suburban area, just a few blocks from a shopping mall. I was treated to the sight of a fox from my bedroom window last year. It looked healthy and well fed. I hope that it is doing well to this day. How do they manage to survive. I suppose that they find plenty of squirrels, rabbits and voles in our gardens.
    Thanks for this post and the photos.
    Beatriz Moisset recently posted..The Yucca Moth and the Yucca

  4. says

    Thanks for sharing Beatriz! It is amazing how adaptable a fox is in an urban area. I have seen videos of some in London but often they run into problems with humans. They will eat almost anything that humans eat . . . scraps of food but also precious chickens that folks do not fortify safely away. Many, sadly end up being put down as pests and sometimes trapped and released in wilder areas.
    Carol Duke recently posted..Colors ~ Sunrise Sky ‘Intuitive Palette’ ~ Painting Workshop ~ Provincetown Art Association and Museum

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