With Spring Comes Fox Kits

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Mama & Kit Watch As Another Zooms By

This year Spring came early, and then stalled, and then ran ahead.  My foxes denned under my deck exactly one week early. Unfortunately, loose-running neighborhood dogs caused them to take the entire brood down the road to a set of culverts under two close-set driveways in my mountain neighborhood.  The entire gang, Mama Foxie, Papa, and babysitters, Sadie and Goldie (yearlings who were members of last year’s litter) are at my window every morning.  They check out my bird feeders, drink from the hummingbird feeders I put too low, and generally hang around on my back deck, which is pretty safe for them.  The babies….frankly, I don’t like Mama’s newest decision:  the culverts she decided upon are right on a bend in the road, and the babies sometimes are seen hanging around on the road itself.  I don’t like the setting, or the danger.  Could the dogs be as bad as that?  I suppose they are to a fox.  The first day I saw three kits at the culverts, I figured they’d left my deck.  But as I got home, I found Sadie had babysitting duties to another three of the kits, who remained.  By morning they all were gone, however.  I am confused about just how many kits there may be in this current litter.  With two babysitters, I suppose there could be as many as three denning sites, with Mama and Papa as the corporate executives of feeding, babysitting, and general overseeing.  These animals are truly amazing!  I just haven’t had the time during May to ever totally figure out the comings and goings of the fox family.

I’ll admit I will soon have more time to pursue other things (as in hunting for a new job after losing my teaching contract, along with many teachers in Colorado, for next year, or watching wildlife around my mountain.)  I wonder if this extra time will help me figure out the impulses of a wild canine’s mind?  Unlikely. None-the-less, I am wonderfully enriched by the time I had with the fox family, and I’m glad the adults are still coming around.  Now, what to do about those neighborhood dogs?

On photographing wild animals:  I am lucky to be able to use one of my best lenses, the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8, VR, ED to photograph the fox babies.  My blind is made up of various vantage-point windows in my house.  I do tend to run up steps, and back and forth as the kits frolic.  It’s not as convenient as it sounds……also, some of the best behaviors are taken ONLY from behind the fixed picture window.  Shooting through a window never produces the best results.  I’ve tried to be inconspicuous by hiding around the corner of my garage, sitting quietly on a stool, but I’ve never fooled the adult foxes.  Mama, being the tamest of the bunch, doesn’t mind my presence, but Sadie and Goldie are much more skittish, and often “tell” the kits to “skidaddle” when I am noticed.  I use a tripod with a Wimberley gimbal head on my tripod for good panning control.  I do wish I could afford one of the new Nikon cameras with better ISO low light capabilities.  My D300 is not as good with low light as I would like, but overall it is a wonderful camera.  Sometimes I add a 1.4X or 2X teleconverter to my lens, depending on the light available, since I lose shutter speed with the addition of the teleconverters.  Shutter speed is of utmost importance with all the cavorting young animals do.  Which is worse?  A “grainy” picture with too much digital noise, or a blurry photo due to subject motion?  Neither are great, but I’ll go with the noise.

To learn more about my fox family, check out my book, available at wwwBLURB.com or look here for more information about it:

<div style=”text-align:left; width:450px”>http://www.blurb.com/assets/embed.swf?book_id=2330662&locale=en_US<div style=”display:block;”><a href=”http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2330662?ce=blurb_ew&utm_source=widget&#8221; target=”_blank” style=”margin:12px 3px;”>Foxes At My Window by Donna Dannen</a> | <a href=”http://www.blurb.com/landing_pages/bookshow?ce=blurb_ew&utm_source=widget&#8221; target=”_blank” style=”margin:12px 3px;”>Make Your Own Book</a></div></div>

Categories: Red Foxes | 1 Comment

Pet Photography (Yes, It Has Been Awhile!)

I’ve been remiss!  I’ve done so many things and have been so many places that I hardly know where to start.  Hiking season is obviously over in  the Colorado Rockies.  We trade in our hiking boots for skis or snowshoes to visit the backcountry at this time of year.  I love snow photography, but haven’t had much time to be out in it since the Fall season.  I also have a new puppy!  I need to share some photos of him and talk a bit about pet photography.

Get down low, first of all.  Try to be at eye level with your pet.  A given is to either train your pet to stay put and call them for their attention, or have someone just behind or beside you wave a toy, a squeaker, or a treat while your pet is tethered to something behind him that is out-of-sight.  In the photo, below, I had someone hold the leash, and then I cloned out the leash in photoshop.  There was nowhere to tether the pup in the below shot:

Spirit on Mt. Evans the first week I owned him

Spirit tethered to the aspen, behind. The leash is not visible.

As Spirit grew a bit, I was able to tether him and put a dog biscuit in my mouth as I took the photo.  One thing I have noticed is that animals, wildlife or pets, don’t see your eyes when you put a camera up to your face, and they may lose interest in looking towards you.  Calling, making noises, using a squeaker or treat, all help keeping the animal focused towards the camera.

It is SO helpful to have an assistant.  In this photo, below, an assistant stood behind Spirit (believe it or not, there was safe room before the drop off….please do not do this unless it is safe, and you are secure in a situation like this!!!) and kept him safe and looking towards the photographer by tossing treats forward as the photographer also called his name.

Spirit is held in place by leash and by a non-acrophbic assistant above the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Since I’m training Spirit to “stay”, I am higher than I’d like…..I had a treat in my mouth, and was quietly saying his name, so as to not have him bound towards me!I am working at teaching Spirit to “stay”, but it is a work in progress…….sometimes cloning out the leash is all that works, though in this photo I was able to get him to stay momentarily in front of the hearth tree.  However, I had little opportunity to compose this shot.  I really felt pretty pleased to get the photo at all!

Remember to set your aperture to a setting that isolates your subject.  An open aperture gives you less depth of field so that the background blurs and the subject is in clear focus.  That allows your eyes to take in the subject.  When youwant to include the background and the subject is more a part of the photo as a whole, you will want to close your aperture down so that theentire photo is in focus (as in the shot of the Black Canyon of theGunnison, above).

An older, 7 mo old Spirit poses, but still needed tethering, here. I am photographing a bit from above to keep the background simply the snow. I’ve also cloned out the park bench where I tethered Spirit. In this urban open space dogs are not allowed off-leash, besides, a puppy may take off in interesting new territory. A youngster is rarely secure enough to stay with distractions. The lIght on Spirit’s face helps spotlight him as the subject of the photo.

When posing more than one dog, all the above is magnified!  The final two shots are Avie, my older, female Samoyed, posing with Spirit, on Christmas Day at my sister’s.  (New territory for Spirit, but familiar to Avie).  In the first photo, the two dogs are tethered, and the tethering is cloned out.  In the second photo, the tethering merely does not show in the photo (always preferable to cloning since it is hard work to clone out images in a photo).

Avie, on left, and Spirit on the right. Leashes were cloned out of this shot.

In these photos I’ve isolated the subject by light, or by blurring the background with a wider aperture.  I’ve also used different directions of light.  The photo below, shows the use of backlight, where the light comes from behind the subject.  This can be good to keep the subjects from squinting (as they are doing in the front lit shot, above).  This is also something to remember when taking people shots!  By shooting towards the light source, in this case the sun, the subject will be in shadow, with a pleasant look.  You may have to open up your aperture a bit, or you may need to fuss with the exposure to lighten up your subject during post-processing with an editing program like Photoshop when using backlight.  In the photo, below, the snow has reflected light back up into the subjects’ faces.

I hope some of these hints will help you take nice shots of your loving pets!

Avie on left, and Spirit, right, are tethered to the old tractor, but leashes are hidden.
Categories: Other Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hiking In the Clouds

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The summer of 2011 has seen some interesting weather.  The “monsoonal effect” is not an unknown phenomenon in the Colorado Rockies.  During weather patterns when moisture pours up from the southwest, it results in fantastic cloud patterns, building thunderheads, and potentially violent storms, usually in the afternoon hours that can culminate in “gully washers,” hail, and scary cloud-to-ground lightning.  We had had some wild weather the evening before, but the storms did not arrive until late in the day.  We hoped we would be down from the heights before the sky show began once again.  None-the-less, we hiked with an eye towards the sky, and could not help but be amazed and awed by the beautiful building clouds on the skyline.  Our hike that day was to be mostly above treeline, where lightning can be the most dangerous to mountain hikers, but a beautiful boon to the landscape photographer.  Wide-angle lens photography is particularly suited to ridgetop views with incredible thunderhead skyscapes.

We began our hike at Berthoud Pass along U.S. route 40.  We parked at the old unused ski area parking lot, and began our hike across the highway on a trail once part of the Berthoud area ski runs.  The trail switch-backed towards the ridgeline and met up with the Mt. Nystrom trail that runs through the Vasquez Peak Wilderness.  Once above tree line, the views were tremendous.  To the west we looked towards Byers Peak.  To the north were the Indian Peaks.  Eastward we saw the 13,000’ peaks above Berthoud Pass, and to the south was the 14,264’ massif of Mt. Evans. We walked along the old peneplain (flat ground that was raised up during mountain-building ages, showing remains of the older, once lower, flat land).  We entered the Vasquez Wilderness, and moved north towards a tundra pond, then hiked up to the top of the slope, turned east, and traveled to the edge of the peneplain above the Current Creek Basin.  This was our high point of the trail, where we rested and photographed the peaks around us before our descent to the Current Creek valley.

Our descent involved a scramble along the cliffs of the ridge that marked the boundary of the Current Creek Basin.  We found the easiest route downward, and made our way with caution.  Once below the cliffs, we were able to walk the tundra slopes down into the trees below the basin.  Once in the trees we encountered our exit route:  the Berthoud Ditch, a water diversion project owned by the plains city of Thornton.  The aqueduct cut a swath across the mountains just below treeline.  We were happy to reach this point because any lightning danger is less once hikers are in the forest.  Still, the clouds seemed beautifully benign, and the subalpine pond we pointed towards was the perfect place to intersect the aqueduct.  From there our hike involved walking out along the ditch to where it came alongside Highway 40, right by Berthoud Pass, the beginning of our circular hike.

Map used:  Winter Park, Central City, Rollins Pass Trails Illustrated Colorado map # 103

6.22 miles with an elevation gain of 1638’

Hiked  August 4, 2011

Categories: The High Country | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can It Get Any Better Than This?

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I just spent a wonderful five days photographing, hiking, jeeping, and enjoying the West Elks and the San Juan Mountains between Crested Butte and Lake City, Colorado.  The West Elks had nearly 300% of normal snowfall, so the wildflower show is later than usual, and I believe any time this summer is wonderful for colorful meadows beneath towering peaks in that area.  This year, however, we wanted to jeep to another wildflower mecca on the Alpine (jeeping) Loop:  American Basin.  I’ve been following (and enjoying) Darren Kilgore’s website, http://www.mycolorado.org.  Darren has a lot of experience photographing gorgeous medium format film images all over the state, and especially in the San Juans.  He has a lot of information and shares it generously.  Our biggest concern was timing for the best wildflower displays, especially since the mountains around Crested Butte, just to the north, are so behind in the blooming season this year.   Kilgore says, however, that the best wildflower dates for the San Juans is the 10 days between July 20-30, no matter if a big snow year, or a dry one.  We crossed our fingers and started off for the high country.  I must say that after several years of visiting the West Elks around Crested Butte at different times of the summer, that the area truly is a crowing jewel of wildflower display; however, I am not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite as amazing as the high basins of the San Juans.  We hit it right on, jeeping into the high country on July 25th.  (Thanks, Darren!)

In Colorado, there are several life zones of vegetation as one ventures from plains to foothills, to peaks, to mesas, to desert.  Each area has its timing for best wildflower viewing from early spring to mid-summer.  Of all the life zones, the sub-alpine zone buried beneath the heaviest snows of winter, is the last to emerge.  It is also the most vibrant and lush of any of the Colorado vegetation zones.  Perhaps the heavy, wet snows of the southern mountains, and their southern position of more temperate climate and better soils, makes for a vast variety of species, bigger size, and more colorful individuals.  My comment to friends on this trip was that while we have stems of lovely flowers in the central mountains, the more southern areas have the same species, but in bush and tree size!

We didn’t hike in the San Juans as we have in the West Elks, but went by jeep.  Next time I’d love to go into some other basins famous for wildflowers in these mountains!  Our five days were filled with wildflowers, wildlife, sunsets, sunrises and many good times.  I hope to comment on some of these in the next editions of my blog.  Until then, I show here several views of American Basin.  Everywhere we looked there were unbelievable flower displays.  The Lake Fork of the Gunnison River begins high in the snowbanks of American Basin.  Directly up the streambed was a view of streamside chimingbells and brookcress, Parry primrose and other species who live with their feet wet along the streamsides.  Lovely feeder streams were lined with other flowers as were the meadows between.  All had the jagged ridge between Jones Mountain and Cinnamon Mountain, both peaks above 13,000′, rising above the alpine meadows.  What gorgeous scenery!  Next time we will rent the jeep the night before and get an earlier start.  Luckily, we had some stormy weather and cloudscapes to vary our lighting, but definitely this is a morning kind of place.

Categories: The High Country | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Summertime….Is for the High Country

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Since I am a teacher, summers are pretty much my own time.  I do work at summer camp a couple of weeks most summers, so in between work and keeping my photography business intact, (and this year, publishing a book, Foxes at My Window-see my previous post to preview), I hike.   I have hiked avidly in Colorado since 1969 when I was a Hike Master at a camp in Estes Park.  An old knee injury incurred in college is now making it harder to do the high peak summits I used to scale…….now I am more content to do the most exciting wildflower and scenic hiking I can do to add to my photography files.  I have favorites I hike nearly every year……but always, new horizons beckon.

This past week, a friend and I hiked one of the most beautiful areas in Colorado:  Shrine Mountain and the Shrine Ridge Trail.  I have always arrived at Shrine Pass too late for the wildflower displays I’ve seen depicted by other photographers……and this year I’ve been determined to time it right.  Summer out here is about 2-3 weeks behind the normal season.  The mountains received 300+% of normal snowfall in some areas…..so the snow has been slow to melt.  We found the season was just getting underway at Shrine Pass, but at least I now know where the flower show stands……it promises to be incredible, and I want to return when it peaks.

On the other hand, the snow on the mountains is beautiful, giving the landscape a touch of Switzerland.  By late summer our mountains are usually bare of snow…..these views along with the gorgeous greens of the alpine tundra gave the entire scene the feeling of an out take from The Sound of Music along Shrine Ridge!

We took our Samoyed dogs along……my friend is working on pack hiking and working certificates on her dogs.  I put these titles on many many dogs in the past.  I’m not actively pursuing the titles now, though I should, since my 10 year old Sammie, “Avie” has been on so many hikes in the past 7 years with me, she probably has earned the WSXM title a couple of times over.

The trail was marshy and muddy until we gained the ridge to Shrine Mountain.  I regretted the many extra trails forged through the willows that people made trying to avoid the muddy mess that was the trail itself.  This is so hard on high mountain wet habitats, and the multiple tracks through the marshes will not erase easily.   I know the U.S. Forest Service likely doesn’t have the funds to elevate the trail, or lay boardwalks through the marshes, but it should be a priority considering the number of people who use the area.

Our white dogs were soon two-tone white and red from the red muck we walked through.

Marsh marigolds, globeflower and narcissus anemones were everywhere……these are early wildflowers that love the lush wet of melting snow.

We passed and trekked through some of the snowfields.  In the slideshow photo of the Gore Range behind Shrine Mountain, you will see a group on the foreground snow on their way up the mountain.  Once past the wet and snow, the alpine meadows were a heavenly green, and dotted with alpine wildflowers.  The alpine sunflowers were putting on their best show, and mouse-eared chickweed, and black-headed daisies dotted the meadows.

I love tundra walks!  The trail across Shrine Ridge was beautiful, with views of stunning high peaks in every direction.  The views of the rugged Gore Range were magnificent.  To the northeast we could see the ski slopes of Copper Mountain, and to the south, the views were of the highest peaks in Colorado:  those around Leadville and the Collegiate Range.  To the southwest, the Holy Cross Wilderness was stupendous.  I was excited to have such an incredible view of  Mt. of the Holy Cross with snow still in the couloirs that form the shape of the cross (more-or-less).  Avalanches in years past have rendered the cross a bit less cross-like than when William Henry Jackson first photographed the mountain in the 1800’s.

After many photographs, lunch, and soaking in the scenery on the Ridge, clouds began building and we reluctantly moved back down the trail.  Raindrops did not fall until we were back into the vehicle to return home!  A perfect hike; a perfect day!  And to think I’ll be in another Colorado scenie paradise this weekend:  The mountains around Crested Butte and Lake City!  More to come on that.

Categories: The High Country | 5 Comments

Preview My New Book!!

 

This is a totally new addition of my book about red foxes:  Foxes At My Window

Take a look, make a comment, buy through blurb.com

Categories: Red Foxes | 3 Comments

Back from Minnesota

Raccoon Nursery

I’d planned to write every day I was in Minnesota, but I am too A.D.D., I guess, to settle down and write about my day….probably why I’m not much of a journal writer.   I was also a little bit conflicted about what I was doing……going to Minnesota on a Wildlife Photography seminar…..at a captive wildlife facility.  I haven’t photographed captives before, unless you count photographing the animals that appeared in a feature film my sled dog team was in.  This was a new experience for me.  I needed to ruminate on the experience before blogging about it.

As it happens, though, I am gathering shots for a photographic art showing, and I wanted well-lit photos that were art quality.  I’ve been able to accomplish that with some of the wildlife I photograph, but I wanted more variety.  I also sell image rights to a wildlife artist who uses my shots as research for his oil paintings, and I needed quality images.  Then, there is the fox book I’ve been working on…..and the opportunity to photograph both gray fox and arctic fox as examples of these species.

I was a bit unsure of what I’d find at this facility, but I can report that it was wonderful.  Having trained numerous sled dogs, and having run a fairly large kennel, I knew something about what I was seeing.  It was encouraging.  The photography type is controversial, and certainly not my first choice, but it was still a great experience.

That said, I think the animal/human bond exhibited by the head trainer and his animals was of awesome quality.  This is a family business, and the animals are well cared for.  I loved watching the owner’s daughter handling many of the animals.  She really has a knack with them, and she truly communicates with them.  Since the wildlife in my neighborhood are around people a lot, I know they can live side-by-side with us, if only we understand, appreciate, and allow them to do so.  Yes, wild animals do belong in the wild to come and go as they need.  However, I have never felt zoos to be unethical. I feel similarly about facilities like this one, when well run.  There are all kinds of animal rights-type articles on the internet decrying wildlife farms, but an article I found, written by Dr. Leonard Lee Rue III (whom I had the honor of meeting many years ago) guru of wildlife photography, was the one that struck a chord with me and my “see-all- sides-of-an-issue” mentality.  If interested, find it at:  http://www.vividlight.com/articles/1805.htm

The raccoon babies were really fun.  The first day we were there, the heavens poured (we saw very little sun these four days), but this day was the worst.  We spent our time getting to know the animals, and we got to feed some of the babies by bottle.  I really enjoyed feeding the ‘coons.  They were noisy when hungry, ate with vigor, and then settled right down to be snuggled.  Except for the one I had that decided to let go all over me!  Pee and poop, both!  We all laughed, but I got a free laundering service right there in the beautiful log house that is headquarters and family home.  The Midnight Marauders owed me a good photo, and I believe I might have been only one of two of our group to get all three little faces looking at the camera.

The animals we photographed all live in the North Woods of Minnesota, as well as in the Rocky Mountain West.  The bright green deciduous vegetation & different geology  were the only things that differed much from the habitats I am used to.  (By the way, I have families of raccoons who visit my deck every night in summer, looking for bird feeders I may have forgotten to bring in).  I rarely see them in the day time, though, so having light to work with was another bonus.

A word about photographing the wildlife:  at least at this facility, the animals are brought in and  encouraged with treats to stay in a photographic area.  The areas are huge, though, and while the animals “sort of” came in when called, a lot of the photographic opportunities were up to us, though we stayed together and didn’t roam around on our own.  Many of the animals were very quick, and the light low, so photography was fairly challenging, though definitely more successful than many chance encounter sessions I’ve had in the wild.

I’d planned a trip to the Vince Shute Black Bear Sanctuary and to the International Wolf Center, both near Ely, MN, while on this trip, but a series of circumstances prevented my getting that far north.  Getting a chance to photograph both species at the facility helped me get over the disappointment of missing the Centers……that will be for my next trip north.

It’s not easy work, this Wildlife Farming.  The trainers set their clocks for every three hours for feedings of the young ones, 24/7.  The roads department calls all hours of the day or night when there is road-killed deer, and the trainers drop what they are doing to bring in fresh meat for their predators.  Government regulations must be met.  It’s not a snap living, but this family is dedicated and have run the wildlife farm for going on three generations.

I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences and some of my photos in the coming days!

Categories: Wildlife Photography | 1 Comment

Quick Learners

The fox babies are growing up.  They seem (some of them, anyway) to still come back to the den to sleep.  Fox research says that kits will begin to hunt in groups, or perhaps accompany an adult on hunts at about 3.5 months of age.  This group of kits is at that point in their growth.  I had noticed, even before play sessions, that one or two of the kits would “come from elsewhere”  (who knows where) to join in.  I’ve not seen a play session since the weekend.  On Monday night, though, a fox was hit by a car on the road below me.  That night I actually heard fox “scream” calls at about 11 p.m.  I have no way of knowing if that had anything to do with the road kill.  My adults are all intact (a neighbor thought it might have been one of this fox family).  The neighbor boy who found it and buried it told me it was an adult fox…but he may have been mistaken, since the kits are getting so big now.  It may have been a fox from another territory.  All I know is the order of things has suddenly changed.  I’d not seen “Bashful” until Thursday morning, and at first wondered if she may have been hit.  At that point I’d seen maybe one kit out of the den, but no mor group play sessions.  That night seemed to create a difference in the order of fox behavior.  Since that time I’ve seen all four adults from my fox family curled up under my bird feeders in the morning (they had done that when the kits were under the deck).  I’ve not seen any kits, however.  It is very possible the fox killed was one of the kits on a night hunting trip.  Kits are so vulnerable at this stage in their lives.  Of course, animals have litters for just that reason:  to ensure that SOME genes are successful for future generations.  Considering the risks, only one pup from a litter making it to maturity is a reasonable reality.  That all three from the litter last year made it (the boy at least made it until he was forced from the territory by “Papa” fox), is rather unusual and amazing.  I had worried about what might happen when these current kits were going out into the world, however.  The home territory is obviously rather full, with four adult foxes living on it.  Would one of the adult females search out another territory?  Would they drive the female kits away?  That all remains to be seen, and I may never know.  Still, foxes are extremely intelligent, and they learn quickly.  An example is my birdbath sitting in a scraggly raspberry patch.  “Bashful” and “Sweetie” would drink from it by jumping right up onto the structure.  The kits were fascinated, but couldn’t reach.  “Big Red,” however, the biggest of the litter, made it eventually, and on his first attempt session!  (See photos below).  As with all three litters in three consecutive seasons of denning under my deck, I have increased my knowledge of fox behavior, and I’ve been blessed with some interesting photography as well.

3). Success! "Big Red" finally gets a drink! And he learned in one session.

2). "Big Red" tries over and over to do as Bashful had done.

1). No Fair! We want up there, too! Bashful takes a drink in the seemingly inaccessible birdbath.

Categories: Red Foxes | 1 Comment

Fox Interactions

Fox watching involves either discovery or confusion.  Having a background in canine behavior (or experience with more than one canine) really allows the watcher to have a better idea of just what is going on.  As the fox kits grow, their interactions become more adult-like.  They don’t tend to greet one another……after all, they are all living together and know each other well.  But there does seem to be a pecking order which establishes quite young, according to the fox research I have read (the best is a book entitled:  Red Fox, The Catlike Canine by J. David Henry, ISBN 1-56098-635-2, Smithsonian Press).  He said, “…..at about 25 days of age, the kits begin to fight viciously; they clash with each other in short, serious….contests….[to]….establish a strict dominance hierarchy during the following ten days.  The alpha (or dominant) member of the litter establishes itself, and the hierarchical process continues all the way down to the omega animal.  Evidence suggests that these dominance relationships among the cubs are stable and have a great bearing on their survival….The largest member of the litter, whether male or female, usually becomes the alpha pup.  By early May the fox kits …..begin to come above ground for longer periods of time.  At this point the hierarchy is solidly established, and the aggressiveness of  the cubs actually diminishes.  Gradually they become more social, playful, and puppylike.”

I’m glad I’m watching the less aggressive behavior!   Other interactions are interesting.  Pup to adult greeting is often like pups get food as younger kits.  They approach crouched, ears back, tail out, in a submissive behavior.  Open mouths seem to go with the greeting.  Between adults it is the same.  Below, Papa, who has been babysitting, is replaced by Sweetie, who greets Papa, and they then begin to “mouth” in friendship, or, at least toleration.  After-all, Sweetie is a pup from last year’s litter with Papa again as sire.

Papa & Sweetie interacting (two adults)

“Big Red” approaches Papa

Less aggressive puppylike play behavior

Categories: Red Foxes | 1 Comment

Saturday Afternoon with the Fox Family– Funny Fox Fotos

Bashful Chews Out Rambunctious Kit (actually she's yawning)

Wake Up, Sleepyhead!    

After waking them up, Bashful soon retreats to the birdbath to get away from the onslaught!

Saturday’s observations were entertaining.  The kits, now likely two months old, are wild and wiley.  Photographing them is not easy.  For one, I have two safe places to photograph from, using my house as a blind.  My family room is on one end of the front “deck” (or porch), and my garage windows are on the other side.   The kits are not afraid of me (if I make no sudden moves or sounds and am standing at the window).  The problem often is their outsmarting me.  Just as in the Greek fables about the wiley fox, these intelligent creatures will run over the deck, or under it (through their den) to the opposite side of where I am!  They can drive me crazy trying to keep up with them.  From either window I encounter lots of bush branches in my way.  From one window I have deck furniture, hummingbird feeders, and the deck itself, always present.  It is a challenge to be at the right place at the right time.  In my last post I introduced the four adults in my fox family.  When Foxie Mama is around I can photograph the kits from outside……but only from a sitting position, and after I scare them once when I first approach. They then come back out with curiosity getting the better of them.  “Bashful”, however, is the common babysitter, and, as her name suggests, she will not allow me outside around the kits.    This morning, for the first time, Sweetie was babysitting.  Normally I can get near Sweetie, but she must be fairly new to babysitting, because she didn’t know what to do while I was there.  The kits took up on that confusion, and retreated.  As a result, I now have lovely light, and no kits out playing. I
hope I’ll have an evening of fun like yesterday:  Pictured, Bashful wakes everyone up, then they mob her, and she retreats to the birdbath.  The kits run everywhere!  Bashful seems to tell them off (featured photo) and then is bewildered by trying to keep track of everyone.

Actually, I say the above to anthropomorphize the fun of watching fox litters.  However, there really is a fascinating set of communications foxes use to direct their young.  I’ve heard the sharp scream they make when a dog comes sniffing around.  The kits go under with the speed of prairie dogs when a hawk flies above them.  There is a soft chortle when Mama or Bashful wants the little guys to come out to play, or take food offered.  I’ve heard an interesting clicking sound made to get the kits’ attention as well.  Then there is the hoarse three note barking the kits use to talk to each other……very fun stuff.

Bashful soon was tired of kit antics, and, below, is yawning, and staying off just in enough distance to keep watch as the pups fly around, chasing, pouncing, stalking and running, running, running.  The day ends as the pups finally settle down to relax…….

The Kits Evening Activity Finally Ends in Relaxation

Bashful yawning at the hard work of babysitting.

Categories: Red Foxes | 3 Comments

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