Exciting day and evening here on the Homestead. While Andy was presenting his James Welch light box to the public library folks who commissioned it. I was at home having a standoff with a fox.
I was casually heading out the door to retrieve my purse from the car and looked up into the front pasture, not more than fifty feet stood a fox and at least two if not three kits. I was stunned. She was stunned. I'm assuming it was the mama (vixen), however, I just read that sometimes a fox (male) will hunt for the vixen and kits as well. Anyway, the fox ran away a few yards and turned around to look at me. I almost ran inside to tell the boys so they could see this little family of foxes too, but I knew they would yell and scream and scare them off. And, honestly and maybe selfishly, I wanted this moment to myself.
Ever since my honeymoon, when Andy and I were driving to Bowman Lake (near Polebridge) on a little foresty road, and two kits tumbled out of the bushes into plain view on the side of the road, I have had a fascination with foxes. They are mysterious, smart, fast, and always just out of reach.
Anyway, so there I was, waiting for her to make a move. I talked to her, told her it was okay, I wasn't going to mess with her babes. But, I warned, out loud: "You need to relocate, I won't let you hurt my chickens." She yelped/barked a few more times, as if trying to reply: "Yeah, but I need to feed my babes. You understand, right?"
And, the thing is, I would probably be willing to sacrifice one chicken on her behalf, for her kits. But I know that if she got one, she'd take out our entire flock.
I ran inside to get my camera because the kits were starting to wrestle and I just couldn't handle it! This is all I got, a very distant shot of one of the babes. The mama was clearly a red fox, but the kits are this gray/black combo until they get older.
I know, it's so hard to see. But, isn't that so right? I think part of why I am so enamored by these little critters, is that it is nearly impossible to get a good look at them. They have insanely good hearing, and are so fast! Apparently they mate in January or February, and give birth end of March/early April. Which would make this kit just a few weeks old. The vixen usually starts to leave the den to hunt after the kits are about three weeks old. I'm guessing this kit is somewhere around four weeks old.
So while I was trying to take a picture of these amazing little creatures, the big fox took off like lightning towards some of our chickens. I thought she had one in her mouth, so I yelled loudly and forcefully. She stopped, looked at me, and retreated. The kits must have ducked back down into the den pretty quickly too; I didn't see them the rest of the evening. I did see the big fox a few times far up on the ridge, but eventually she completely disappeared.
I stayed outside and kept watch for the next hour and a half, waiting for dusk, when the chickens start waddling their way back to the coop. The boys and I chased the last three hens into the coop at about 8:30, and I battened down all the hatches to make sure they were all as safe as can be. As we strolled back up to the house I took some pictures of the beautiful light.
I felt good about saving our girls. But, I know we are going to have to scare the fox and her kits off, if they decide to hang around. And for that, I'm a little sad. I wish there were some way to coexist peacefully. Apparently foxes typically have several dens in an area, so hopefully this vixen and her kits are relocating somewhere else now. They will have to survive on field mice and rabbits. We will have a close watch on our chickens for the coming weeks. Even though they aren't as cute and mysterious as the fox and her kits, they do provide us with over a dozen eggs a day. They definitely earn their keep.