I’ve written before that we have a number of foxes around our farm this year. The fox in the cattle pasture across the street moved into a den in the roadside near our driveway, raising four young kits into young adulthood this past spring (see May 18th, 2015 blog). One of the kits was eventually hit by a car, but the other three seem to have grown up and moved out, leaving their mother to possibly raise another litter in the coming year. One of those three young ones still visits our orchard regularly, eating fruit from the ground and staring intently at my chickens, safe within their fenced-in yard. I have no idea where he lives but he is obviously on his own, and I hope he stays nearby.
The fox with a den in our Timber seems to have found himself a friend. From the first days that we began to see him in our fields, we called him Mr. Fox; and now it seems that Mr. Fox has found himself a Foxy Lady! Every time I see him out in the Timber or Fire Circle Pasture, he is always part of a pair, eating, drinking and resting with his new partner. I keep wondering whether his friend came from the den at the roadside, but there is no way to know.
I’m actually quite happy that our acreage is home to multiple foxes. I’ve been told that fox and coyote don’t run in the same territories, so having fox here means that we have no resident coyotes. If I had to choose between the two, there is no question that I would choose foxes. Due to their small size, they are only a threat to the very youngest lambs, and our lambs aren’t allowed out of the barn until they have grown well beyond that size. A fox can threaten chickens and perhaps barn cats when they’re out in the open, but the cats eventually move into the barns where they find high spots safe from the foxes, and the chickens are protected by a fence and hot wire. The red fox that call our area home can find plenty of food and water here, and they pose no problems to our resident populations. They are welcome to stay.
Coyotes, on the other hand, can be vicious predators to all of our residents. They will chase and kill sheep, cats, and chickens. If they are traveling in a pack, the coyotes will fight and take down llamas — the reason why we often run our llamas in pairs when we can. We can hear the coyotes at night — nearer than I would like — sending their haunting howls into the still night air. The sheep crowd together restlessly while the llamas patrol the perimeter or peer into the darkness at the corner of the field closest to the sound. Coyotes are nothing to toy with; I much prefer the less threatening foxes.
Our llamas also recognize that the red fox are no threat. One day I walked out to the Timber Pasture to check the sheep and found the entire flock lounging in the sun. The llamas came to meet me at the gate, and as my eyes scanned the recumbent flock, I noticed two red splotches at the bottom of the hill at the edge of the sheep flock. Mr. Fox and his Foxy Lady had also decided that an afternoon nap was in order. Unfortunately, my presence sent them into high alert and they took off across the field, running between the sheep, until they reached the hidden entrance to their den. The llamas hardly moved — they were much more interested in what I was doing there than where the two foxes had gone.
So now I look forward to seeing whether either of the two dens at Peeper Hollow Farm will have kits next spring. There is something magical about a group of red fox kits, frolicking in the spring sunshine and caring not one whit about my presence. Even now, the thought brings a smile to my face. Yes, that would be a very good thing; and I will let you know.