Awesome Fox Story, April 14, 2002

Awesome has become such an abused word. I am talking about its original meaning, full of awe, the kind of awe that makes you weak in the knees brings tears to your eyes.

Last year a family of foxes raised its young at a cemetery in Winchester and I was able to watch a lot of the activity. I have been looking for them this year, but today was the first time I saw anything, when I saw an adult sauntering across the lawn. I stayed in my car, using it as a blind, and followed. She went nowhere near the den, but trotted purposefully along the edge of the cemetery. I lost sight of her several times, but I continued to drive around the cemetery perimeter and captured glimpses here and there.

At one location I had expected to see the vixen, but there was nothing but two gray squirrels foraging on the lawn, one normal and one melanistic. Suddenly I saw her coming over the rise. She paused, looked, and suddenly launched herself across the lawn toward the black squirrel. The panicked squirrel ran, darting and dodging, but to no avail. The fox took it.

She shook it a bit, and fussed with it, then trotted off with it in the direction of the den.

When I lost sight of her I drove up to the den, got out of my car, and carefully positioned myself a distance away where I could view the den, and stood quietly. Moments later she appeared, squirrelless, stared at me, deemed me at a safe distance, and trotted to the den.

She entered for only a second or two before she reemerged, followed by four kits. She walked down the hill, with the tiny kits bouncing in her wake, and when she stopped, they rushed underneath her and began suckling. She stood still, only occasionally pulling a young out to clean it. After perhaps five minutes, they stopped, and started playing as she watched.

Eventually, she trotted down the hill and picked up the squirrel, and came back toward the den. The young were elated, leaping and grabbing at the carcass, but she ignored them, and entered the den, leaving immediately without the carcass.

The young continued to play for perhaps a half an hour, ending up at the entrance to the den, and finally they disappeared into the hole.