I first saw the mature Red Fox hunting around the yard in the dim light of early morning about a week ago. Our backyard wildlife habitat – spruce trees, brush piles, stone walls and a continuous supply of bird seed – supports abnormally high populations of prey species, so the presence of a small mammal predator wasn’t a surprise.
A fox looks a bit like a long-legged dog with a long, bushy tail. On the other hand, their hunting behavior – moving with great speed and agility, climbing, leaping and pouncing – is very cat-like.
There’s always a concern about diseases like sarcoptic mange and rabies (both fatal) in foxes, but this one appeared to be very healthy. The thick, fluffy winter coat is a thing of beauty, and also deceptive. A dog with this outward appearance might weigh 30 pounds, a fox less than half that.
In late winter, an opportunistic feeder like a fox will eat just about anything in front of its nose that contains precious calories, including carrion. Woodpeckers hammering into a suet (animal fat) bird feeder on the pole send small pieces flying to the ground. The fox wasn’t about to let the fallen suet go to waste.
Foxes have incredible senses; they can hear a mouse or vole under a foot of snow cover! Here, I was shooting from inside the house, doors and windows closed, 60 feet from the pole. And I’m convinced that this curious look is a response to my camera shutter.
I think this is a male (“dog”) but can’t be sure. Males are a bit larger than females (“vixen”). A pregnant female would be about a month along with her 52-day gestation period. Either way, I’m hoping for more opportunities to document the behavior of our neighborhood Red Fox.
Photos by NB Hunter (Feb. 9 and 16, 2019). All rights reserved.