The Christmas Foxes in January

There’s been so much interest in the foxes I wrote about last month that I figured an update (with more photos) was in order.

To begin with, there are a few more foxes visiting the yard than I realized. If you read my previous blog, The Christmas Foxes, you already know some of the dramatis personae, to wit:

PatchPATCH: a handsome, very red fox with a bare spot on his right shoulder. Patch appears to be a more mature fox than the others who’ve visited my yard; he’s bigger, with a beautiful brushy tail and a full coat. At first sighting I thought the bare spot was mange, but on closer examination, I believe it may simply be the remnants of an old wound, as he’s not showing any other signs of mange. I’ve also determined Patch is a male, as he is constantly lifting his leg to mark territory in the yard. Fox pee is rather rank, as is fox poo, and it seems to be a habit for foxes to literally “shit where they eat” – in other words, to mark areas where they’ve fed. Fortunately it’s been extremely cold lately, and it’s easy to flick away the rock-hard bits of frozen poo.

WispWISP: a mangy and rather down-at-heel fox, sex undetermined. Wisp is more or less denuded from the ribcage down, with a naked tail that gives it a ratlike look. Wisp is looking a bit better these days- I’ve seen her/him eat the medicated food, there’s a lot less frantic scratching going on, and in general the shaky, unthrifty look is gone although Wisp is still a straggly creature. I have my fingers crossed that he/she will survive the abnormally low temps we’ve had for the past week.

HopHOP: a fox with a very bad limp. His/her left hind leg is either broken or very badly dislocated; in any case, it can’t seem to bear much, if any, of the fox’s weight. Hop also has very distinctive “half-moon” muzzle markings.

KinkSHINE, aka KINK: For a while I thought these were two different foxes, but now I think they’re one and the same. I’d remarked in the previous blog about Shine’s very bright coat; Kink has the same vivid, pale red coat, but on closer examination has a distinctive kink about two-thirds of the way down her tail. (I say “her” advisedly, as I initially thought I’d glimpsed male genitalia on Kink, but she and Patch are always together these days, and I am wondering – since fox mating season is nearly upon us – if Kink and Patch are a pair. They have certainly been playing together like a pair, as you’ll see in the video below.) I’m going to stick with the name Kink for this fox – it’s more specific.

1.2.8 New Mangy Lame FoxHOT MESS: I’ve only spotted this fox once, and only then because it was captured on my new trail camera – a Christmas gift from my husband. Even though I’d like to spend all day watching for foxes, it’s just not possible, so the motion-triggered camera lets me keep an eye on the critters without my being glued to my deck window all day. All night, too – its infrared lens capability lets me film them after dark. Hot Mess is not only mangy (although the fur loss isn’t as advanced as Wisp’s), s/he also has a bum left rear leg. In the video Hot Mess is painful to watch: the halting gait and the furtive air makes me so sad. I am hoping Hot Mess will make another appearance so I can determine how to help him/her.

The most frequent daytime visitors to the yard have been Patch and Kink. I feed birds (I usually have about a dozen feeders going at once), and that means that I also feed squirrels, whether I want to or not. I’ve managed to baffle the feeder poles so the squirrels can’t get into them, but the birds usually knock out enough seed to keep the squirrels coming back (plus there’s an oak tree on the south side of our house, so even if I stopped feeding birds, I’d still have squirrels). Patch and Kink are both very fine squirrel hunters. In my previous blog I recounted an incident of seeing Patch right after he’d made a kill. I was fortunate enough to have my Samsung WB350F camera handy (it’s got a zoom lens that even an idiot like me can use), and that Patch made his kill only a dozen feet from the deck, so I was able to get some very good photos of the aftermath:

Patch with Squirrel kill 2

Immediately after the kill.

Patch with Squirrel kill

Getting down to business.

Patch with Squirrel cleanup

Washing up after a messy meal.

Wisp showed up in the yard as Patch was carrying off the remains of his meal, and Patch became quite aggressive, baring his teeth and physically shouldering Wisp until Wisp retreated. The following week I watched Kink stalk, chase down and kill two more squirrels, and a few days after both Kink and Patch were hunting in the yard, although as near as I could tell, they weren’t pack hunting. Kink was in the bushes at the northeast corner of the yard while Patch was about thirty feet to the south under a tree. Both were watching a squirrel feeding near the middle of the yard. Kink began to stalk the squirrel and finally rushed at it. The squirrel ran toward the southwest corner of the yard, then suddenly veered north, toward the tree where Patch was sitting, with Kink on its heels. Patch made a dive for the squirrel, but it eluded him and was able to scramble up the trunk to safety, leaving both foxes looking after it:

Kink and Patch

There goes lunch: Patch in the foreground; Kink looking after the squirrel.

Right after I took this photo, Kink bared her teeth at Patch and the two separated. At this point I was still fairly certain Kink was male, but I keep seeing Patch and Kink together, and just yesterday the two of them spent nearly an hour playing together. I was lucky enough to get some footage of that encounter:

The two were in and out of the yard most of the afternoon, usually together, so we’ll see what happens – although I may not get that chance. Work began this morning on my next-door neighbor’s house (they’re putting on an addition), and I fear the construction noise may keep the foxes away. Don’t get me wrong; I want them to stay wary. They always hurry away when any humans are near, and I’ve made every effort to keep them from associating me with food, but having the opportunity to observe and photograph them has been a gift – Christmas or otherwise.

Stay tuned.

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