At present, I am a teacher of young children. My other school duties involve photography for our website and for marketing since our school is a private one and enrollment relies on advertising. But I have another life. Ever since I was a Ranger-Naturalist in Rocky Mountain Park, I have sought a sort of intimacy with the non-human world. I have raised sled dogs that I showed under the kennel name: Tundra Winds, and I raced in sledding events for 20 years in the Rocky Mountain West. This close association with canines has perhaps allowed me to understand wildlife, and to approach them for photography. I love nothing more than to spend a day on the alpine tundra following a herd of mountain goats or bighorn sheep, observing their life, and recording it digitally.
An incredible break for me involved the purchase of my house in a foothills community that abounds with wildlife. I had no idea when I purchased my acre of mixed evergreen forest, that I would live smack in the center of a fox family’s territory. Amazingly, not only did foxes pass through my property, they also denned under the front deck of my house. Since I have lived here, I have observed 3 litters within this single family, and each year I learn more about these wild canines; enough to write two books about their antics and their life cycle.
At first I had no idea what I was observing, except that it seemed very familiar to my work with Samoyed dogs, their breeding, raising and training. By keeping several dogs at a time, I also had a clue about their communications and their ability (or inability) to get along, their hierarchies, etc. I saw many of the same things within the fox family! That made me curious enough to do some research and to observe in similar ways red fox researchers have observed.
Currently there are four adult foxes within this territory, and I’ve named them: Papa, who has sired every litter raised here. Foxie Mama, who may have raised each litter, though I’ve not been able to confirm her as the dam of the first litter. Two daughters from last year’s litter reside here: Sweetie (who lost an eye in rough puppy play), and Bashful, who is incredibly shy. Having last year’s girls around has been especially interesting. Last year Mama and Papa did all the caregiving to their litter of three. Since there are four this year, Bashful has taken on many of the babysitting duties. Sweetie comes around, but I’ve not seen her spend any time with the litter. Bashful and Foxie Mama do the main watch-guarding, with some help from Papa. (First photo)
Foxie Mama is an incredible vixen. She is amazingly bold and friendly, often following me around the yard. She often hangs around on my back deck, checking out my bird feeders. She often eats bird seed that has fallen out of the feeders, but I know it’s a live meal she’d like to have, though I’ve never seen her successfully catch a feathered meal. I have seen her try, however. Foxie is also an amazing mother fox. She has been the dam of at least the last two litters I’ve observed.
The two girls, Sweetie and Bashful, are very different. Sweetie is brash, bold, and pushy. She and her brother, Audie (who Papa drove out of the territory when he was about six months of age) were playing, and Audie either bit or scratched her in the eye. I happened to hear this happening, though it was dark that early autumn morning. I worried terribly about Sweetie, and wondered if she could survive this way in the wild. She seems to have done quite well. Bashful is shy and afraid of about everything. Wind in the trees makes her nervous. She tolerates me hanging out the window to take her picture, but not to walk near her. I watched her fearful of the car when I drove up my driveway. She did not warn the kits, but took off with them bewildered at my iron machine. Later she did a better job of guarding the kits, but her first inclination is to flee at danger.
Now that you have met my fox family, I will leave further adventures to other posts. My posts will be about my involvement with the animals and places that I photograph. I hope you will stop by often to see what wonders I’ve encountered!