Sunday, January 26, 2014

Feeding the Foxes

2013 was a rough year for the gray foxes living in our neighborhood. After the female gray fox was hit in December 2012, I worried for them; but in the spring, I saw a pair of fox tracks weaving through the freshly-fallen snow, and I had hope again. Over the summer, Steph and I spotted them often on our walks: usually pups, they crossed the path or trotted along it, regarding us with a wary curiosity. At one point, when heading home around midnight, we even caught a glimpse of what we're quite certain were two red foxes, walking calmly along the road.

All seemed well for the foxes of the neighborhood, until September hit — and within the span of a week, two fox pups were dead, both victims of traffic. We didn't see any foxes after that, but we did find evidence of their habits; in addition, we heard more about the elusive red foxes that lived down the street. When I put what remained of the doe out at the end of November, I hoped to provide the foxes — both red and gray — with good meat during what was already shaping up to be a ridiculously cold winter.

About a week or so ago, Steph and I looked outside and realized that everything but the deer's head was gone: the spinal column, the ribs, the pelvis — they had been stolen in the night, no doubt by the larger, stronger red foxes. It was incredible! I wondered where the bones would end up, and hoped their final resting place wouldn't be on someone's front lawn. The next morning, the doe's head was gone: the rope tied around her neck had been chewed through.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and our neighborhood foxes — enduring what's been the coldest, snowiest winter in decades — were hungry. They still are.

A few days ago, I pulled a dead cottontail out of our freezer. It had been shot sometime in the autumn and given to us — and I figured that the foxes would rather like it if I left it out for them. Before I skinned the rabbit, I took a couple photos of it hanging.

Once skinned, I tied the cottontail securely, leaving it hanging above the ever-rising snow line. The foxes didn't visit last night, but as the temperature continues to hover around 0°F during the day and -10°F at night, I'm sure they will be stopping by soon.

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