A few weeks ago, my daughter Sarah yelled downstairs, “In the back there is a fox!” We went to the windows unable to see any sign of it, which was not surprising given how all the bushes and trees have filled in the back. We went upstairs and quickly spotted what my daughter did: a red fox prowling past our fence in the back yard (her photo is to the left.) It was nice sized being somewhere between our dog (a puli) and the cats. It was a curious sight as I had always believed foxes to be nocturnal. But I gave it little thought as I just enjoyed watching it from afar.
A little while later I caught sight of the fox again but this time it looked a little different, smaller with a ringed tail. It seemed strange to me but perhaps, I thought, I did not catch the right view of it before or perhaps my memory was a tad off. Then another fox came into the picture with a chipmunk in its mouth and made a bee line for our neighbor’s shed that is adjacent to our property.
The original fox brought the chipmunk over to the base of the shed and a tiny head popped out and grabbed the offering. In a few minutes three other little foxes (or kits) crawled out from under the shed and started to jump on each other and run around.
I suddenly realized that a den of foxes had taken up residence next door: a set of parents and four kits. It now made sense why my compost bin had been dug under and all the scraps taken away (foxes are omnivorous) and (perhaps) why the cats had taken to wanting to be inside at night rather than out as had been their habit. I started to find lots of fox scat around the back of the property and near the compost heaps.
For the next few days, early in the morning I watched from my office as the parents would bring food to the kits and let them occasionally play near the shed. One day a pair of squirrels was brought by and taken under the shed, on another day it seemed as a stream of chipmunks were being brought for breakfast. But as quickly as this family appeared, it vanished. My wife Juana said that foxes have multiple dens. Perhaps the proximity of our house was considered too dangerous as the kits became more curious. Perhaps our dog Daisy was considered too much a threat. But for more than two weeks we haven’t seen much of them.
This morning I saw one of the parents scavenging around the compost heap looks for scraps. The kits were not to be seen, however, as they were no doubt waiting for yet another meal from their parents. As I write this I see a fat squirrel sitting on a rock not 10 feet from the fox den. It is quietly eating a nut, seemingly oblivious to any threat. Perhaps this is the most obvious sign that the foxes have moved on for good.