Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Year of the Fox

High: 72°F
Low: 55°F
Conditions: Partly cloudy with a chance of isolated showers later today.
According to Chinese astrology, 2008 is the year of the rat. The United Nations proclaimed 2008 the year of the potato. Both of those designations are all fine and good, but around here, we’ve decried 2008 to be the year of the fox.
It started in late spring when, each night right around midnight, we’d be awakened by ghoulish shrieking in the woods outside our house. Initially, I thought the banshee chorus was coming from a fisher cat (Martes pennanti) or porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). Greg speculated it was bobcats (Lynx rufus). A resurgence of distinctive scat soon proved us both wrong: our woods had become make-out mountain for a pair of amorous red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). We’ve been waiting for the kits ever since.
In the meantime, we've come to love the hoarse bark of these wild canines. If you're not familiar with the sound, you can listen to a variety of calls here.
Throughout the summer, we've heard warning cries, mating cries, fighting cries, and just plain crying cries. But we still haven't seen the new family. That is, until recently.
Last week, Greg and the caninaturalist were out walking early in the morning. They heard a fox barking as it went racing by—just beyond their reach (unfortunately, neither thought to bring the camera). Following close behind was not only a large bobcat, but also another fox chasing the cat. The latter managed to tree the former, then screeched out at its mate, who had crossed the road and was lurking in our ash grove. The all-clear sign was enough to also bring out one of the season’s kits, who rendezoused with mom and dad before retreating into the pine grove.
Today, Ari and I went for our early morning stroll through the neighborhood pasture. There, just over the rise was not one, not two, but four fox kits engaged in a battle royale cagematch. They pounced and boxed and leapt and nipped and didn’t mind at all that a blue-eyed dog and singularly amazed human stood by and watched.
When one of them finally did notice us, he alerted the others. They all turned their attention towards us and, instead of scampering away, crouched low enough to scuttle closer for a better look. Ari stood on her hind legs and chortled her best greeting; much to our delight, the boldest of the litter returned it, albeit with some trepidation. Here was a wolfy-looking creature who seemed a whole lot like them (not to mention someone who would probably be great fun to play with), but why on earth was this wild looking dog standing next to a HUMAN? They were understandably stumped.
The four kits studied us for a long time before finally deciding that Ari must have very bad judgment to keep such company as I. Or perhaps their parents had warned them about canines who have fallen in with the wrong crowd. The most moral of the group issued the call of the cavalry, and off they went—too reluctant for inter-species play.
Not so further to our west at the Sugarloaf Golf Course. There, golfers have been plagued throughout the season by a particular clever fox who has taken to stealing balls on the fairway—often right out from under the noses of human players. That’s our kind of mulligan--especially this season, which we've dubbed the Summer of Fox.


Kathiesbirds said...

Kathryn, what a fun experience you and Ari have had! Oh, those photos would have been so great! Isn't it always that way, you think you won't need your camera and then, plop! Nature drops a great photo-op right in your lap! Well, it's a good thing you are such a good writer, for I could visualize everything from your words!

Eve said...

How fun Kathryn! Ari did such a good job trying to get them to understand that you were one of "them"! I'm sure that's what she was saying! I'm hoping not to see anymore foxes here now that I have guineas but...I saw one sneaking across the hay field last week! Ole announced his sneakyness!! Thanks so much for the link to calls.....so THAT'S what that was!!!

Charity, Gary, Katie and Louis said...

What an awesome adventure with the fox babies. I enjoyed reading about it.

Regarding the tomato soup, I know the texture of tomatoes changes after they are frozen, but the flavor should be the same. I think it would be worth a try to freeze it. It would definitely get eaten at our house no matter what the texture was.

Me and my puppies said...

How fun to have been witness to this playful event. We have fox in the fields behind us and at the Island beach. I rarely see them and when I have it's only to witness them thiefing food!

Booker the Treeing Walker said...

When my parents lived England, there was a family of red fox who lived at the very edge of their property, boarding the giant pasture out back. The fox would play in the very early morning ... it was delightful. Aren't they beautiful little things?

Jan's Funny Farm said...

Wow. Nature so close at hand.

Those cubs are cute. But we don't know we would want to be that close to a chase and treeing. Whew!

Tracey and Huffle said...

It appears that someone else forgot the camera on their walk too!

There are no foxes in my yard. I'm not sure if they'd appreciate a black cat like me so perhaps it's just as well.

Huffle Mawson, Honorary Husky and Explorer Cat

The Daily Echo said...

They sure are cute! The only fox we've seen is one trotting up our road one day a few years ago. He was just passing through.

Maverick the Pirate said...

Harrrrrr Ari
we saw a fox the other day It crossed the road Harrrrrr. It was so cool Harrrrrr. Sounds like you had a good adventure Harrrrrr.
Cap'n Maverick the Pirate

Kapp pack said...

That is so cool! Foxes are so cute!

Kisses, Sky boy

henbogle said...

Great photo, what a treat to watch 4 kits at play. I just love the wild bark of the foxes in the night, it is such a great Maine sound.

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

I thought it was the season of the witch?

Or the year of the khat??

SOOOO, it is time for foxy fox on the run???


Farmgirl_dk: said...

What a fun story!
Guess you're glad you don't have chickens, huh? :-)

John Theberge said...

Great photo and great story to go along with it. I live in a rural area so I'm sure there are foxes around but I never see any.

umekotyan said...

Good evening Ari.
Also in Japan, the sexagenary cycle of China is used, and year of the rat.
The fox is lovely.
And, the chance to know fox's ecology during time ..do and put together...
I am a fox that knows, and a famous thing is fire fox.
It is a joke.
The time of the fox to live and naturally is memorized to have had helminth's influence.
Please take care.

And, I am a favorite noodle as for the movie of the dandelion.
The buckwheat adjusts to the place where natural environment is severe.
Even the wonderful Olympics is a little more. :)

from loved ume tyan

jan said...

Foxes are so cute, but then I don't have livestock for them to munch on. I'm curious about what they do with the golf balls.

amkuhl said...

You reminded me, a fox lived under a bridge at Pine Tree golf course for years, stealing balls with great success!

They are beautiful animals. I wonder, though, if it is true that they are common carriers of rabies, more so than the often maligned bat. I've heard that about foxes more than once, but I hate to think it's true.

Next time, bring the video camera!
Bentley's Mom

Dmitri said...

Renard is all-powerful and all-knowing. Be careful of him, Ari.

The Army of Four said...

That's so cool! And what an amazing picture! Hmm... those two sort of remind me of Amber and Zim when they play...

Mary said...

I just love the Fox photo it is beautiful