Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fox Uncertainty, May 31, 2009

Well, my hunch is that the male did not stick around. Of course, I am not positive. I cannot track these little guys and, because mom is gone, their morning habits have changed. Hours pass before I really know the little ones are still here. If they are still using the den, I wonder of their attachment to it is getting weaker
since there is not a regular food
supply here. So much to ponder,
and not a very happy, certain time.

Yesterday evening I wanted to see if the pups were still using the den. Perhaps the male took them somewhere else. If not, maybe they wandered off in search of food. I put a small handful of dog food just inside the main den opening beneath my front door. After an hour I heard a commotion and went to look. One of the bigger fox pups stood spread-eagle over the food, eating, body shaking, and fiercely growling between bites. Two others, including Little Fuzz, the smallest, circled, trying to get a bite. At one moment the guarding fox turned and tangled viciously with one of the others. This strong fox was not about to share. The others continued to circle and slightly tremble. Hunger. They seemed very hungry, I thought. I did not know, though, if this is also natural fox pup behavior at this age: learning to be aggressive around food.

After the one fox ate all the food, the others were allowed in to sniff around. Soon all three wandered off. I felt so sad to see the littlest one disappear through the shrubbery. She was so tiny, such a little morsel for some other hungry animal.

Nature intends for parents, be they plants or animals, to produce more than can actually survive. The intention is to replace one's self in a lifetime, unless the habitat can support a few more on a certain year. All the rest become food to raise other babies and keep other potential parents alive. So, in a litter of five pups, it is nearly certain that not all will live. The feistier, more alert, and in the case of tiny foxes, the ones who learn to look up, will have the best chance. Humans are notorious for falling in love with small, helpless, cute things and I am one of them. You, most likely, are too.

Last evening, my partner Larry brought me a whole chicken. Organic, I requested. This morning I chopped it into tiny morsels with my cleaver (that long ago Chinese cooking class came in handy). I put several pieces out, this time scattered over a wider area. All remains quiet but for a yellow warbler and wrentit singing. This marsh and river are beautiful in the fog and an unusually large number of water birds are feeding there.

Here is a photo taken very late in the evening (sorry for the blur) of Little Fuzz waiting for a chance at the dog food. I took the other photo from my window to convey the quiet and the birds this morning.


A Fox in the Afternoon, May 29

This is continued from the last email I just sent.

After a while the little guys left the egg dish and disappeared beneath the house.

When I looked out the window again.... another adult fox! Was I seeing things? This animal was robust, handsome, and a stranger, at least to me. He finished off the egg soup, then skulked and slinked around some distance from the den opening, sniffing and looking nervous. Do male foxes eat pups as males in some species do? Was he stalking them? I watched as he crept closer to the house and disappeared into the den.

Next, I heard commotion on the back deck. There the handsome fox sat with the pups scampering around him. He even briefly groomed one of them. Since that moment I have relaxed a lot. I do monitor the energy of the pups to make sure they are being fed. So far, they seem as peppy as ever. I am so grateful. And, no mice to cut up every few hours! (My friend Ronnie James says you can buy frozen mice, probably not in the frozen food department at Harvest Market, though. She buys mice to feed to her rescued raptors. Yum!).

Here is a photo of the handsome fox. Notice how chunky he is! No thin lactating mom here. He also has an aggressive personality, in contrast to the more cautious mom. In fact, he growled fiercely when I walked out the door, and chased after me for a short distance to make sure I left the yard. I am now definitely the intruder. I wonder if the mother fox had kept him away from her den and he was actually her mate. It is also thought that foxes use assistants to help raise young. In any case, I hope he sticks around.

Sigh, Erica

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fox Kits on Their Own, May 29, 2009

I want to begin by saying how deeply touched I am by all your kind words and thoughts about the fox pups. I really had no idea how much you care. Thank you!

I also want to thank the very skilled and thoughtful (and specially trained and licensed) people I called to get advice on how to care for the pups. First off, I am very glad you all said "don't trap them." I found out I should simply feed them cut up mice (hmmm), or dog food and calcium, and make sure they have water. Several reassured me they will begin to care for themselves. But they are so tiny, I kept thinking to myself.

So thank you Danielle and Doris of Sonoma Wildlife Rescue, Tanya Smart who rescues marine mammals, Ronnie James who rescues birds, Sarah Grimes who rescued me, and Jackie Peltier who rescues young mammals. I also want to thank Judi, Nansee, Raven and Lynwood, my wonderful neighbors the river, who offered to come help.

Yesterday I set out a bit of food and a dish of water mixed with a lovely egg from the Flower Farm. The photo shows the pups investigating, but very nervous. In the past, they have been interested in the occasional tool or object I left in the garden. Now, they seem anxious about the dishes. They wriggle and start to approach, then race away. The little fuzzy runt seems to be the ringleader and gets the closest. In the photo you can see how much smaller and fuzzier the pup with her nose near the egg soup is. She is also the bravest. I think of her as female because a friend who photographs wildlife in Alaska, including foxes, said this was most likely a female. Not positive, though.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Fox Update, May 28, 2009


Well, sure enough, no mom. I have called animal rescue people in the next county who have been very helpful. I heard that Sonoma Wildlife Rescue has a fox mom who takes in and raises babies. I hope she will accept these and I hope she is still there.

I also start a job today with a new client. Before my meetings start at noon I am off to get a large box and some fishy cat food. The cat food, I am told, will lure them out so I can catch them. I have several days to catch the pups as long as I give them food and water. So far, I hear them beneath the house, but they have not emerged yet.


Fox Family Tragedy, May 28, 2009

This morning I am holding my breath, awaiting the sun and the time the foxes usually emerge to play. Last night, when I drove home around ten, I saw a small body lying dead beside the highway near where I live. I know the mother fox often hunted for road kill to feed her family and brought some odd pieces of animal to her den that she would not have been able to get as live prey.

I parked my car and want back to take a closer look. Sure enough, the small animal was a lactating fox. Was this my fox? I will be able to tell for sure when sunshine comes into the yard, but I am next to sure. I heard the babies moving around a lot last night. They must be hungry and getting dehydrated. My worst fear, next to how am I going to rescue them if they are orphans, is that they will get too weak to come out of the den and I won't be able to trap them.

Around 5 this morning I set a dish out with egg mixed with water. It has not been touched. The mother would have drunk it, I am sure, if she had been here. However, I am not sure the puppies know how to lap yet. I have seen them go to the little pond and just sniff. They are just beginning to chew on meat. Yesterday they tore around with a gopher and begin actually trying to eat it. I am thawing some ground turkey to put out.

In this area we are fortunate to have several very caring people who devote some or all of their lives to wildlife rescue. Not only am I nervously waiting for the sun to rise, but also for time to get more reasonable for a phone call. What will become of little foxes that have human contact without a mom to teach them how to be a fox. If these are orphans, I am praying for a good ending.

Attached are two photos. One I took yesterday, of the mother with baby. So sweet. The other is of the runt next to my wheelbarrow filled with stuff for the recycling depot. You can see from the size comparison how tiny this and the other foxes are. They are only about 10 weeks old.

I'll keep you posted.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fox Report, May 26,2009

I am learning fox language. The mom has several growls with specific meanings. Yesterday she caught a glimpse of me as I took these photos through my kitchen window. I heard a low growl that stopped her pups at play. The second growl sent them racing for cover beneath the house.

Then I watched her pull a deer leg from the bushes, probably from a road kill. At first, several pups, still too young to know what to do with meat, began tugging on the bone. The mom was hungry and seemed to have had enough of puppies jumping on her and tugging at her tail. This growl backed them off some distance for quite awhile.

Bath time is always so sweet to watch. Mom grabs a pup as it races by and begins licking and biting at its fur. The puppies seem to love this attention and show it with blissful looks on their faces. The mom is always very alert, however, and frequently looks up startled with ears perked. Puppies don't like this bath interruption and lick her nose until she resumes licking them.

There is a runt in this litter. It looks to be about 10 days younger than the others: smaller and fluffier. This little one makes up for small with feisty energy, however, and can hold its own. This puppy is often the brunt of hard play, with the others ambushing and pouncing on it. The little guy will have nothing to do with being picked on, flattens its ears, and gives a nasty growl. The others back off immediately. When it chooses to do so, however, it jumps right in the middle of the fray.

Here are yesterday's pix.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Three Explorers, May 19th 2009

Hi All,

Here is a photo of the ever-patient mom. I am so curious about the foxes' activities. There are long periods during the day when I hear nothing. The young are way too small to hunt with her, but they are so quiet that I think she has carried them off to a new den. Only when she is around are they noisy, like right now. Still, no male to be seen. How does she hunt and make sure her pups are safe? What a responsibility!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mother Fox and Kits, May 17, 2009


The mother fox in the den this year is not the same one I had last year. Last year's fox had a black dot on her cheek. I finally got a good look at this fox and she does not have that dot. Also, I am pretty sure there is no male helping out, as the male did last year. Perhaps this is a new mom, unsure of herself. She might be from last year's litter.

This fox is very skittish and growls a lot at her babies when they try to play with her. When she growls, the kits scamper under the house, only to pop out right away and try again.

Enjoy today's photos!


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Foxes, May 8, 2009

Here they are today: more active and chasing each other a lot. Mom looks thin and so far, no sign of dad. I saw a lot of the male last year. He often stood watch as she played with her puppies. So far, I have seen four kits.

All photos are taken from my kitchen window. I need to wash it.


Fox Photos First Day Out, May 7th, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

First Day Out, May 7th

Dear Friend of Foxes,

Today dawned bright blue and green. The ruckus beneath my kitchen floor intensified and I knew this was the day. I first saw the female sitting beneath my kitchen windowsill and took this photo. She is so intently watching her babies. What a job she has ahead of her and where is the male? I haven't seen him yet.

The babies were most likely born 6 weeks ago. They sure look tiny for all the noise they have been making. I only saw two. Last year she had five, so I think there are more.



Friday, June 5, 2009

A Window On Foxes, May 5, 2009

Dear Fox Lovers,

One night, back in January, I returned home to a stench at my front door so strong that I thought a skunk had sprayed me. I quickly moved indoors only to find that the odor increased as I went to the back room of my cabin. Had I trapped a skunk inside and was only now discovering my mistake?

As I stood in my office I heard a huge ruckus beneath the floorboards. High-pitches squeals, screaming like it was the end of the world, punctuated by deep growls. Then I heard bodies tumbling, banging against the wood beneath my feet. It sounded like a fight to the death, with me standing just inches above, bathed in ever stronger "smoke rings" of scent. Finally the fight ended and I went to bed, to be awakened periodically by waves of skunk odor. But all was quiet.

I never smelled skunk after that night and had no idea whether the fox, at least I thought it was a fox, had won the use of the den. At the time, I actually thought the skunk had won. However, since January I have heard diggings and scufflings too energetic-sounding for a skunk. Then I began to see fox scat and, very rarely, a fox wandering long my driveway during the day. More recently I thought I heard tiny squeekings and scufflings beneath the floor at my rocking chair and beneath the kitchen. Today I know for sure!

The sun poured into my garden between rain clouds. From my kitchen window I watched the female sun herself, just a few feet away, nose and ears twitching as she kept track of the now very loud head banging, growling and tumbling that shook the kitchen floor. The babies sound like they are just ready to emerge. For all their noise, they are most likely still very tiny. Perhaps the grass is just too tall and wet for them. I think I'll get out and trim it.

Besides foxes out my window this morning, I watched two pairs of Canada geese with their tiny goslings. When the goslings first emerged last week, they reminded me of furry eggs balanced on toothpicks. Then I saw seven double-crested cormorants and several pairs of merganser ducks swim into the cove. That many fish-eaters in one place meant to me that there must be a school of fish beneath the rain-muddied waters. Sure enough, they dove and emerged with fish, flashing brilliant lights against the misty landscape.

The cove is filled with birdsong and the recent rains only intensify the joy I feel for the life that is bursting forth. Time to go pull a few weeds!