Jan 17, 2013 | 1273 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

WILD KINGDOM is an American television series that features wildlife and nature. It also makes a good name for the backyard of my home in northwest Gilmer.

I have a window bird feeder that in this bleak midwinter month has attracted Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, Cardinals, Slate-colored Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Robins and possibly some other birds passing through,

The animal kingdom has been represented by eastern grey squirrels, raccoons, possums, armadillos, feral cats and at least one collar-wearing fat cat.

BUT I WASN’T prepared for the sight that greeted me and Andrea Hawk, physical therapist, as we were standing by my glass back door on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Two red foxes were clearly visible inside the thicket that marks the edge of a Brooksy Creek tributary, my property line. It soon became apparent that this pair was trying to increase Gilmer’s red fox population.

Knowing next to nothing about red foxes, I figured that some research was called for.

FROM THE Brandywine Conservancy’s website I learned that red foxes (Vulpes vulvas) are thriving in urban and suburban areas throughout the U. S.

Not native to Texas, the red fox was introduced here for sport hunting purposes around 1895.

They now occur throughout central and eastern Texas, but they do not seem to be common anywhere. Although usually active at night, the red fox moves about considerably in daylight hours and occasionally may be observed then.

The den is usually an underground burrow, a crevice in a rocky outcrop, or a cavity under boulders.

From The Mammals of Texas website I learned that red foxes are opportunistic feeders and will take any acceptable food in proportion to its availability. The major food items are small rodents, rabbits, wild fruits and berries and insects.

Other kinds of prey fluctuate according to season, weather conditions, abundance, and vulnerability of prey populations Young foxes learning to hunt have to take what they can get.

FROM THE NatureWorks website I learned that female red foxes reputedly remain mated for life. Males and females pair off from late December to January or February. Females have a period of fertility that lasts only two to four days. The young, which may number anywhere from one to 10 (average, four to six), are born 53 days later in March or April.

The female will make one or more dens right after mating. The extra dens are used if the original den is disturbed. The male brings the female food while she is caring for her offspring.

The kits start playing outside the den when they are about a month old and leave their mother when they are about seven months old.

FOXES HAVE a long history of association with humans, having been extensively hunted as a pest and furbearer for centuries, as well as being prominently represented in human folklore and mythology.

But this was the first time foxes have been associated with this human.

Still surprised, I’ll be watching for the little foxes as spring arrives.

And I am reminded of the 1939 play by Lillian Hellman, The Little Foxes, the title of which comes from Chapter 2, verse 15 in the King James Bible’s Song of Solomon.. It reads: “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

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