Volume 13, Issue 31 ~ August 4 - 10, 2005

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Our New Neighbors, the Foxes
by Valerie Lester

The other night I woke suddenly and heard them yipping again. In my half-sleep, before I opened my eyes, I imagined they were rough-housing on the lawn in the moonlight. But when I looked outside, the night was black. I could see nothing, and the yipping stopped abruptly when I opened the screen door.

Let me explain. One day in June, a visiting friend who’d ventured out onto our second-floor deck wondered if I had a puppy visiting. “There’s a pile of poop on your deck, but it’s too dark to be dog,” she said.

“Perhaps it’s a raccoon?”

“Nah,” she said. She grew up in the country and knows whose scat is whose.

A few days later, my next-door neighbor telephoned in a state of excitement, announcing that a fox had delivered four cubs under her ground-level deck. She had seen them playing around her hydrangeas. I rushed over and saw the cubs peering out from their den under the deck. Very cute.

The following week, Mother Fox decided to take her cubs to the playground, the cavelike shade under a large viburnam bush outside my living room window. They romped, took sunbaths, climbed into the viburnam, knocked over an orchid I had been nurturing and broke off its bud and left behind one wing and the stinking carcasse of a bird before retreating to their den under my neighbor’s deck.

The cubs (or kits) looked absolutely charming, of course; Mother less so. She trotted about with an anxious, suspicious and purposeful air. One day she stared fixedly through the French windows into my dining room. I was about six feet away, staring back, taking note of her markings. Because of her predominantly gray coloring and the black tip to her tail, she was clearly a gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus; the red fox is Vulpes vulpes). A quick trip to the Internet to research the gray fox provided the answer to the mystery of the scat on my upstairs deck. Gray foxes climb trees. There’s a tree beside my deck.

One of the advantages of having resident foxes is that deer stay away; flowers are blooming in my garden this year that have never bloomed before. Another advantage is a decline in the mouse population. But because I’m a bird-watcher and the well-being of birds and their eggs concerns me, I’m not deeply delighted about having foxes crapping and cavorting quite so close to my house.

The cubs are adolescents now, almost fully grown, and even though I heard them yipping in my garden the other night, I believe they have found their way across the golf course behind our house and are scooping out their own dens in the woods on the other side. I have no doubt they will be back again next June. The pickings were just too good. When they were holed up under her deck, my neighbor witnessed Mother Fox bringing home a rabbit one evening, a hot dog the next.

Valerie Lester, of Annapolis Roads, is the author of two books, Fasten Your Seat Belts! History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin and Phiz, The Man Who Drew Dickens. This is her first story for Bay Weekly.

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