I’ve always had a love for foxes, and last night, for a brief moment, there was one just a few feet outside my window. I’m guilty of putting a little pile of catfood and some table scraps on the ground with the birdseed in the evenings, now that the bears are asleep (most of the time). A small calico cat and a black cat both come by from time to time (probably when their owners let them out for the night), but my more
interesting visitors have been one fat old possum and two raccoons.
Last night, I happened to check out the window just at the right moment. An exquisitely marked gray fox was stealing the bits of a stale peanut butter sandwich, collecting pieces in its mouth and trotting into the woods and away from the back door light. Since the ground is snow-covered and the moon was bright, I could see he didn’t go very far. He made three trips – two to clean up whatever was on the feeder that he liked, and the third to check it out and be sure he got everything before he continued on his way, up and over the hill and out of sight.
Now obviously, the photos here are not the winter visitor from last night. These were taken in Kentucky, through the kitchen window, with a film camera, so they aren’t that clear. They are gray foxes that visited another feeder, and I think I wrote about them in a post somewhere.
I think what amazes me each time I see a gray fox, is their size. They aren’t much bigger than a house cat. Delicate, with small feet and quick movements. These photos are of summer foxes, but the one last night was in full winter coat, and just stunning!
People seldom hear foxes barking anymore in NJ, though my son did call me one day a few weeks ago to describe what he later determined, by listening to recordings on the web, was a fox. As a child in northwestern NJ, I grew up with foxes barking almost every night. They have a raspy voice, and I would lie awake in my bed at night, following the sound of the foxes as they hunted the woods and fields around our house.
My parents bought 125 acres in 1950. All of our relatives were from the city, and most of them would come to the country on Sundays. On one Sunday the talk turned to foxes. The city folks did not believe we had foxes in the woods, so my oldest brother, an avid hunter, took his fox call and his gun and brought one home to prove it. I remember going into the barn and finding his pile of fox ears, waiting to be turned in for the bounty. I would cry over them, and apologize for my brother’s stupidity. That was in the mid-1950s, and both the farm and my brother have moved on. Now he’s terrorizing fish in Rhode Island. Today, I have no tolerance for hunting – and a love for foxes, especially ones that still have their ears.
Perhaps we don’t hear them so much anymore because we are so engrossed in our televisions, computers, iPods, and other electronic noise that people don’t lie awake at night and listen to Nature.
What made me go to the window last night at just the right moment, I can’t say, but the meeting of that little fox, the brief moment of eye contact and acceptance, is a gift I will treasure. It reminds me that no matter how crazy things are today, the foxes of my childhood still come out of the shadows at night, and in that small moment, all is right with the world. Life is good.