Monday, May 10, 2010

The Fox and the Dogs

Yesterday was interesting. It was Moms' day, the day for mega commercial floral, cards, and assorted gift sales to appease the great guilt generated by an unparalleled marketing ploy. Not to offend those who buy into it, and I love my mother, but hate being bullied into having to behave a certain way, and buy crap, because of a monstrously sized market  manipulation. I do respect that if there weren't moms, none of us would be here and I do give credit and thanks for my mom doing her part on my account. Anyway, it is the time of year when nature has moms of all species being very busy keeping up with the care and feeding of their babies and it certainly was out here on the farm.

I think it was back towards the end of December when I wrote about seeing these two foxes out in my pasture, coupled up and having some difficulty with the separation part. Just recently I have seen evidence of this joining being successful  by seeing small foxes, kits I think they are called, out in the pasture but fairly close to the barn. Marley the dread lock covered Yorkie gave chase to one the other day. They both went flying across the field, Marley in full flight dreads bouncing with each stride, and the fox nimbly keeping just in front of her. Then at one point the kit stopped and turned to face Marley. Immediately Marley began her retreat to the barn with an uncertain look on her face.

Memphis found the den on Saturday. She had killed yet another squirrel, and having eaten the parts she wanted and was full, she needed a place to hide it and bury it. So she went around the manure pill to the hill of dirt that was leftovers from the little pond construction, now grossly overgrown with blackberry vines and cedar trees. I heard her doing her bark which means "mine", a guarding her stuff bark, and then I saw a larger fox and two smaller ones come out of the thicket into the field. They moved like cats with stealth and a bouncy grace, the white points on their tails remaining stationary as they ran, in no particular hurry just slinking away from the barking dog.

Yesterday afternoon tho, the rest of the pack discovered the foxes. An adult fox was in the barn when we went down for afternoon feeding and when the dog pack saw that, the run was on. Heidi the shepherd, and Marley were together running after one of the kits and took off, tails and hackles up, crossed into my neighbor's back field, and disappeared. I was dreading the sounds that I knew had to follow of the screams of baby animals being ripped to shreds. I was screaming at the dogs to come back to no absolutely avail, at all. Life and death is part of life on a farm, but I really didn't want the day to end in carnage and murder and leave some mother fox with no babies. The day being what it was, it would have been very bad karma.

The mother fox, stood out in the field in plain view barking like a cat, a very strange sound, calling her kits to return.  Of course the horses were all entranced and trotting the fence line, tails up too, necks arched and lovely to see, watching this dog and fox scenario.  A few minutes later tho, up comes the worn out, panting shepherd and the Yorkie, both dive into the pond with very satisfied looks on their faces. I looked out to the field to see the kits trotting back to the area of the den. Hmm, I thought. Wiley foxes, curious dogs, what was this interaction about? I was just glad to not have had to endure any death cries.

This morning at feeding time the dogs all went straight to the den and flushed the foxes, and each took off in a different direction followed by different dogs. I did see that the foxes not only are wily in being pursued, they have a different gear that can turn on some serious speed. They toyed with their pursuers by staying just in front of them, playing with the dogs in this chase. Out of sight they went, and then the shepherd was suddenly behind me having been on a big circle in her run, back in pond and panting with satisfaction.

Marley couldn't get enough of these critters and stayed out in the field chasing them and then stopping and them chasing her. They were both the same size and coloring. Marley with her mop of dreads flopping and the fox has that fabulous fluffy tail and they mirrored each other in this funny game of catch they played.
Then all the parties got tired enough and called it an end, dogs returned to the barn and the foxes to their den.

I rarely get to see inter species playfulness like this and it really makes me feel like I am in a Walt Disney movie being so privy to witness this game. I was very worried yesterday about the foxes' life span potential with these varmint killers I have, but what I have seen so far has put some of my concern to rest. I think the foxes will not have a problem out witting this group, and can certainly out run them.

These foxes run with such grace, agility, speed, and balance. They can run with full speed and drop to a stop in one flash, very cat like. It is a just a wonderful treat to be very able to witness these animals in their world, intersecting mine and my dogs, keeping me ever mindful of our differences and of all our similarities. We are all just in this big game together. And it sure does keep things interesting.  

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