Sitting at my desk I heard the screeching sounds that came from either the front yard or the woods beyond. Since the air temp had risen into the 20s overnight, I thought raccoons had come out of their dens to hunt and raise some hell. Outside, I heard the screeching sounds again, but this time they were broken by several wow! wow! barks that led me to see their source in the sloping woods.
A pair of red fox, probably in the courtship process, but possibly two males (each one trying to gain the upper paw in this ritual) cavorted noisily as a flock of crows above them tried to inconvenience the canines for whatever reason that crows might have for doing so. I prepared for a little observation of my own, hoping to sneak up with a camera (so unlike a murder of crows) to report on the January antics of Vulpes vulpes.
I climbed the steep hill in the general direction of the now departed foxes, keeping an eye on their foot prints that were quickly vanishing as additional snowflakes tumbled in upon the hills and hollows.
As I entered the hemlock woods high on the south ridge, I heard the screech and barking sounds again. I hoped to make a careful approach, but staying downwind of the foxes and avoiding the noise from crunching ice and sticks was difficult at best. Within minutes, though, I caught a glimpse of a large fox loping through the mix of hemlock and hardwood trees about 75 yards above the point where I quickly dropped to the ground.
The fox ran westward along an old lumber trail, no doubt scenting a two-legged being who, oddly enough, did not carry a gun but did rely on a beaver-cut walking stick. I didn’t see the animal pivot beyond the screen of trees, but I caught several glimpses of a rich orange color as it headed back in the direction of its mate or competitor in the deep woods east of me.
The healthy looking fox paused once or twice on its jaunt, as if to scratch its pointed head in wonder of what was going on, or maybe even to allow me to zoom in for a furry, though sadly insufficient, image of its world. [To all of you inquiring kids who I wish were out there in my audience, I must say that, No, I still don’t know what the heck the Fox Says, if he says anything to me at all].
One value in a fox chase of this sort is that it stimulates an interest in the world of winter wildlife, and it helps to print a clearer picture of the place in which a human lives. To state the obvious, we live with more than people in this world, and we’re neighbors to its mystery and wonder, even in the coldest part of winter when a large portion of this life is either dormant or in full hibernation.
Although the snow was falling hard across the fields and forest, I was able to get a decent view of life not readily available in any warmer month of the year. In addition to red foxes, I encountered several deer (including a large antlered whitetail), as well as a rough-legged hawk, a gray squirrel, some fungi, ice formations, and a striking buck rub on a beech tree.
To quote John Muir, in My First Summer in the Sierra: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” That said, I encourage everyone, if you haven’t already done so, to go pick at a thread in the fabric of existence. Please don’t pull it out completely. Just study it as something new, or tug it gently, and wonder where it goes.