An adorable family of gray foxes has taken up residence under the ruins of the old barn. I suspect the call of the compost pile and worm bin full of juicy morsels from the kitchen is a great attraction.
The first encounter was surprising. Imagine having a nice quiet meditation in the house one day, and then you open your eyes and see a fox in the birdbath outside the window! My spouse was the first to notice one in just this way. That must have been a bit of a double-take!
Not long after that, we discovered the fox family hangout space and stood amazed and delighted as a confident fox parent stood guard while its fox kits played and sported about. Yes, I just had to video it, keeping a distance so as not to disturb them. Please forgive cell quality. Here you go:
Aren’t they adorable?! You can probably hear us stifling giggles as we recorded the antics of the kits.
Studying up on gray foxes, Urocyon cinereoargenteus californicus, I wonder now whether that was the mama or the papa parent standing guard over the pups? I had assumed it was the mama. This article in the PD on baby fox cuteness says, “Both parents watch over their active offspring, with the male often standing guard.” Well there you go. Sweet.
I’m glad to have their help controlling the rats and gophers in the garden. Usually I avoid directly feeding wildlife (other than creating wildlife habitat) but I did offer them a gopher I trapped, leaving it outside the den. It was gone a short time later.
Another assumption I had was that all foxes were a threat to poultry. But is that correct? Looking this up, it seems the red fox might be more of a threat to chickens than the gray fox. This USDA page says, “Common gray foxes are considered pests by many farmers who raise domestic poultry; biologists claim that this damage is usually overstated and that common gray foxes benefit agriculture by controlling rodent and rabbit populations . In northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) management areas only a small number of common gray foxes (0.7%) were found to have northern bobwhite remains in their stomachs .”
When we used to keep ducks, there were losses to predators, but I never saw any gray foxes back then– only a red fox. And I suspect one or two losses were from owls, given the remains. We also have raccoons and once I thought I saw a weasel. So, it sounds like the gray fox is more likely to help with gophers and rats and rabbits. But, protect those garden fruits if you want to enjoy any yourself!
Now that we have a cat, a friend and I also wondered: do foxes attack domestic cats? I’m being careful and checking on my kitty cat frequently as she roams outside. But evidence suggests it is unlikely. Here’s a great one minute video from FB “Fox Guardians” on that question.
Learn more about gray/grey foxes here:
If you have other solid sources of gray fox info, I’d love to hear about it in the comments or through the contact page. Thx!
Other happenings in our Sonoma County, California garden are the harvesting of the garlic and cherries, doing some summer pruning, like of the espaliered apple trees, shoring up the irrigation system for the dry summer, and gearing up for the lavender harvest!
Visit The-Compulsive-Gardener to see more on organic gardening, wildlife habitat, upcycling, and garden as sanctuary, in Sonoma County, California