Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fox Follow-up

Nancy and I experienced over a week where we had an unusually high number of fox-sightings, where the animals were very close to us and our house. Although its den was elsewhere, we saw fox many times throughout the day. This was an exciting and uncommon experience, but it had its sad side too, which I'll explain later. But first, a few photos.
The photo above is closely cropped so it may seem a bit blurry, but I wanted to point out the differences in color between this one and the other one. Yes, there are at least two fox, and though there may be more than two, I think we have been seeing only two different ones.
 The one above appears older and healthier. Note the black shading on the back. I cannot tell from this angle if it a male fox or a female, which is called a vixen. 

The fox below is clearly smaller and quite mangy-looking. It could be a young one. During mid-day on Tuesday, I surprised the smaller fox as it was curled up inside a five-gallon pail that was tipped on its side by the garden. It scrambled out and ran, stopping after about fifty yards to look back at me in that unique, fox-like manner. 
Five minutes later while I was still roaming the yard, I saw the larger fox return, trot up to the pail, and look inside. Seeing nothing, it quickly gazed around for danger before it ran off. It looked pretty surprised that the little fox was gone. Later I smelled the inside of that pail. It was really a strong odor! I'd guess the smaller fox napped in there often.

The next day we saw no fox, and we haven't seen them since, which led Nancy and me to speculate why.
The answer, I think, is obvious now. Our house and yard provided an easy food source for a short time.

In May and early June I noticed that there were no rabbits around. Last year they were all over the yard. Apparently, the fox made short work of them last winter and this spring. Then this spring we experienced lots of robins hopping on the ground in the back yard, and they seemed more tame and unaware than usual. I remember that Nancy and I commented on the plentiful robin population every day we saw them. There aren't as many tame ones around now. We also had cedar waxwings in the junipers, wrens that would complain with only common, wren-like regularity, and lots of brave chipping sparrows that would hop near our feet when we sat on the porch. When the fox were around the waxwings left, the wrens became very noisy, and for awhile the chipping sparrows became more shy.

The sad side of the fox-sightings is that the fox hunted the rabbits, robins, low-nesting waxwings and chipping sparrows very aggressively until the "easy pickings" were gone. Now they have moved on.
Well, I'm not sad about the rabbits being gone, and the surviving waxwings may return again. The wrens are undamaged, and because the fox are not around, they complain less. Chipping sparrows are back hopping near our feet again. I think their nests were higher in the arborvitae. However, I was really sad to see a number of scattered robin feathers where the fox had been successful. I counted five.

Well, the fox were just trying to make a living, and I certainly do not begrudge a wild animal that right. They live a hard, unforgiving life. If they don't make a kill, they will die.
I do, however, continue to chase away well-fed house cats from our yard because they do not need the birds for food or live toys. I wouldn't hurt any kitties, but I prefer they lead their semi-civilized lives in their own yards.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson


  1. This is impressive that you were able to get so many fox photos. Thanks for sharing those and the story of how the fox have changed the bird environment around your house. You two are so in-tune to nature.

  2. As one reader pointed out, "Robins do a pretty good job of reproducing anyway," so no worries, and I surely don't miss the rabbits. They were so tame last summer that I was worried they were diseased! I admit that we do kind of miss being surprised by the fox regularly.