Have I said that I love where I live?
I’m an outdoorsy person. I love nature and how it functions when humans leave it well enough alone. When I get to experience it firsthand, I feel privilege and sometimes awe.
Take one Wednesday morning in January. I had just ground the coffee beans and took a look out my living room window. A habit with me. I never know what I’ll see. Sometimes deer. Or turkeys. Or this little one –
I did a literal double take as I started to walk away from the window. What was that? OMG, a fox! Snoozing in the side yard. Amazing. I could barely tear myself away to make coffee, or more importantly, get the camera and the long lens. Sorry for the somewhat less than perfect images. I was shooting through the window and there were a bunch of small branches in between, making precise focus difficult and finicky.
As I kept watch, the fox became more and more alert. First the ears swiveled and pointed. Then the head came up and looked up and around.
Finally a turn and stretch. I’m not sure if it’s a dog or a vixen, you can’t really tell.
So lucky in both the presence of this animal and the light. It was about 10 degrees F, but the fox didn’t seem to feel it at all. That glorious fur does its job. And that tail!!!
Somehow I’ve always thought that foxes slept in dens or earths as they are sometimes called. Not so. Only when a pair is raising a family do they use dens, usually dug by other critters like badgers, but they will dig them themselves if needed. The male hunts and brings food while the female cares for and nurses their kits. Between January and March they court and pair off for spring breeding. So I guess finding one sleeping on the ground is perfectly normal. I love learning new things and take every opportunity I can to do so.
Now that I’ve taken the pot off the boil…back to the action. If you look at the difference between the shot above and the shot below, you’ll see a sharpened attention. If you have a dog or a cat you know that look.
And in a second, it was off!
I couldn’t tell what it was after. It went from curled up and resting to hunting in under 2 minutes. Incredible. The next few minutes action took place behind trees and my deck railing, so while I could watch and make out most of everything, taking photos was impossible. Here is the result though –
One happy fox and one unhappy rodent.
Let me tell you what happened. The fox was on that squirrel in seconds. I think its earlier stillness lulled the victim into a false sense of security. A mortal wound was inflicted and the fox backed off and went back on it in intervals. It would pick it up and shake it or bite it. Cautiously to keep from being bitten or scratched by its prey. There was a little blood. The squirrel did fight a tiny bit so far as I could see and unfortunately it twitched a little after the initial strike. It didn’t take too long though and after the fox made sure it couldn’t get away, it carried it off to enjoy breakfast in private.
All the while another squirrel looked on from a tree above.
In NH the squirrel population has had a recent explosion and when I lived there the population definitely waxed and waned. Chipmunks, too. Some of it was that they could easily get to the bird feeders in yards, mine included. Also it was lack of predators due to dense human encroachment. But here there aren’t as many people and I only feed the birds in winter and use a feeder that is really squirrel-proof. So they don’t have much in the way of artificial support. Just lots of their natural foods which is fine (even if I never get to have a single hazelnut!). They’re entitled. The population never really changes. Chipmunks, too. Between the foxes, eagles, hawks, owls and weasels, the rodent numbers are pretty static. The way it should be. Balanced. Like the fox with that tail.