Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Visitors from the wilds

For the first time last spring we saw a gray fox in one of the gardens around our house. It came into the small rock garden and acted as though it was taking a sun break as it moved around, sat, posing perfectly and not quickly leaving.

Then one night this spring we saw two foxes in the vegetable garden when Pepper erupted with a loud cry of fear off the bed. They again sat with little fear when we flicked on the light. Since then we've seen either one or two foxes several times as they race past from somewhere.

The most upsetting was when Pepper came racing into the house banging the cat door in her hurry and I yelled for Farm Boss and ran out to see what it was. The fox was in the rock garden and our guard-dog cat, Blackie, turned to chase it off since I was there as backup.

I stood quietly to avoid Blackie getting himself in trouble as the fox panicked trying to get away. The fox banged off the other end of the fenced yard as it had only one place it could get in-- or obviously out. By this time we knew foxes can climb like a cat.

Until we began to research them (after their latest entry into the supposedly safe-cat yard), we did not know that they have semi-retractable claws. They can pull them up some when they run and use them to climb. They actually prefer to nest in trees or hollow logs but will den up in the ground.

They are the oldest of the dog family and almost prehistoric with their mix of skills. I got curious regarding the sounds they might make and realized we have been hearing them around here for awhile thinking they were birds or raccoons.

Be sure and listen to the YouTube. If you hadn't already been aware, they have 40 different sounds they can use to communicate.

Someone told us many of the raccoons in our area died off during a recent parvovirus outbreak which might explain the increase in the fox population. They are gorgeous little animals and have a very catlike look to them. I don't want them in the yard with the cats. They are pretty much the same size animal. While Blackie would try to fight one, he's not a trained killer as a fox must be to survive in the wilds. Research says they would not attack a grown cat but I don't know. They are certainly fascinated by the cats.

The dog world is not overly friendly to other species within it as the fox will be killed by coyotes-- which might explain why they like hanging around humans. The coyote will be killed by wolves-- and wolves kill other pack members and sometimes even within their own.

We also learned foxes are somewhat omnivorous and eat fruits and vegetables, when available, so in that they are raccoon like-- and might explain holes through the years that I have seen in tomatoes thinking they were from slugs.

Foxes are beautiful but they are way too close to the house and have gone back into the supposedly safe-yard now several times. The most recent two of them, who appear younger, possibly twins, and they had a hard time getting out but it hadn't stopped them coming in. I am not sure what we will do about this fox family to discourage their entry into our fenced yard where especially two hunting together might be a danger to our cats.

First photos from April 2012:

 May 12, 2013:

As best I can tell, there is no reason for them to want into the small, fenced yard. Although we do have a small birdseed feeder there, they've shown no interest in it or in hunting when in that yard. Maybe they just want in because it's there, and they can. FarmBoss/Engineer has a job ahead to prevent them from entering because I really do fear they could get into a fight, at the least, with Blackie and he'd come out the loser. :(

May 15, 2013 and the twins were back-- in the fenced yard which had recently been re-secured to the point it looks like a big bird cage. Not a cage to prevent foxes from entering obviously.

One wanted out sooner than the other but it had the most trouble going back the way it had come. When the one sitting by the pool finally decided to go out, he/she did it with ease. The other one became more desperate and was beginning to worry me that he/she would end up trapped and we'd have to figure out how to get it out of the wire. The one thing I can say for them-- they are not easily discouraged.

To have the wild visit you is cool... but it has a downside.


Lynn said...

You got some great shots, Rain. It’s a delicate balance between observing nature and intervening.

Rain Trueax said...

I really think someone must have fed these guys to make them so comfortable around humans, to come right up to the glass doors and not run right away when they see us. I saw this story-- woman saves husband and it seems that bear also was too used to humans as a source of feeding or else it had rabies (testing its carcass for that after officer had to kill it).

OldLady Of The Hills said...

These are amazing pictures, Rain. I can understand your worry for your cats---especially Blackie...And they certainly are tenacious about getting into your yard, aren't they? It is certainly a dilemma.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

These are some of the best pictures I have seen of our local foxes. Though it is a case of attractive wild life with possible daners. It is really a good idea not to feed wild life. It is a good news story. If they come back maybe you can make a video of them and send it to a Portland news station or OPB.

Celia said...

Hope your kitties stay safe. We have red foxes here that are popping up in people's yards on the edge of town where my son's family lives. They are beautiful and I didn't realize they had so many speaking voices. Now I am wondering if I have heard them. Lots of people out there have chickens some of which have been carried off leaving just feathers. Most of the loss is attributed to racoons but we haven't seen them, foxes maybe?

Tabor said...

We had lovely red foxes one summer sleep by our fish pond in the back yard near a swimming pool we had. the climbed the fence most easily to leave when it got too light. These photos are wonderful. They look so healthy. You might have moles, voles or mice that have attracted them.

Rain Trueax said...

My goal is to keep them far enough away from the house that there will be no photos of any sort. This is for their good and ours. I don't think wildlife ever benefit from close contact with humans.

Hattie said...

They are so beautiful. I have heard of people keeping them as pets.
But I agree with you that it's best to keep wild animals wild.

robin andrea said...

Wow, Rain, those are spectacular photos. Yes, it is a good idea not to provide attraction for them, but it's hard to figure out how to keep them away, once they've found a way in. Good luck with it, and please keep us updated, I'd love to know what you do to keep them out.

inkling777 said...

Instead of an abundance of fox, we have an encroaching coyote issue. I think I'd rather have the fox.

Rain Trueax said...

Inkling, I hate to say this but... we would kill any coyotes coming close. We have sheep and lambs and they kill them; so coyotes aren't welcome and we make it very very unpleasant if they come around anyway. We pretty much used to let them be if they stuck to killing the rodents at the back of the place; but they never stuck to that. We then paid a lot of money to fence the sheep pasture with coyote proof (more or less) fencing and so far so good on that. It's not like we want to kill predators. They are part of a healthy balance in natures but our lambs are not on the menu here. In Tucson we have them come by but nothing we have to protect; so we let it be but some use pellet guns to discourage them. You just have to be careful you shoot them in the butt, not an eye if you go that route.