Fox, then not

One of the things that I've learned over the years is that although there are certainly common problems in many gardens, when it comes to wildlife every gardener sees something different. Climate, geography (both regional and localized), exposure, time of the day and how often you're around -- all of these things play a role in what animals you see out there, and how often. What may be a rare and exciting glimpse for somebody may be an everyday "who cares?" sighting for somebody else.

Case in point: foxes. Although their appearances in my neighborhood are becoming more regular, it's still an exciting day when I see one in my garden. Last Thursday this one little red fox was getting quite comfortable in my garden, hanging around for at least 15 minutes.


Since I had a chance to observe him for a while, I noticed a few things. (I don't know if it was male or female but will continue to refer to him as male.) First, it was a bit mangy, as you can see by the tufts of fur on its back legs. Is that stuff loose?

Second, it seemed to be having trouble with its eyes. They were partially closed, kind of squinty. 

Third, it was scratching itself quite a bit. Not constantly, but more than I expect is normal. 

It seemed to be quite thin, but I don't have much experience for comparison. 

Also, the fact that it was laying out in my yard in the middle of the day seemed strange to me, as foxes tend to avoid human interaction and therefore are primarily nocturnal.

Still, I welcomed the chance to take photos as usually foxes just run through the yard, giving me only a brief look.

The next night (Friday, the Fourth) I was across the street hanging out on my neighbor's deck, enjoying the unseasonably cool weather. During the evening we saw a fox emerge from the wooded common ground, go under the low deck we were sitting on, and root around under there for a while. 

He then actually came partially onto the deck, and I think it may have been the same fox as it seemed to be thin and squinty-eyed, perhaps not able to see us well? Again, I don't have enough experience with foxes to know for certain if it was the same fox, but I think so.

Afterward, my wife asked if it was the fox that smelled so horrible -- like a dead animal -- or if it was the deer that we had seen at the same time, walking past the deck as it headed to the bird feeder. I told her that I hadn't smelled anything but that it was probably the fox -- she had been much closer to it than I was.

Saturday morning I had my third encounter in as many days with the fox, and this one was not nearly as exciting. It was also the last time that I'll see a fox in my garden for a while I bet.

You see that morning I found the fox dead, lying next to one of the smaller bamboos. 

It first startled then saddened me, but made sense thinking back to all of the clues. There were no signs of injury on the poor creature, but it did have a half-dead smell to it even though it had been gone just a few hours. 

We called around various agencies to find out if anybody was concerned or interested in a fox that had apparently died of some sickness, but the only person who was available on Saturday morning said that they were not tracking any concerning illnesses in the fox population so we could just dispose of the animal. 

I buried it in the common ground behind my house, where I've previously buried a raccoon, a couple of squirrels, and at least one chipmunk. (It's much easier burying a chipmunk than a fox.)

So this may be the end of fox sightings in my yard for a while.

Although this saddens me still, I'm cheered a little at the fact the fox felt comfortable enough in my garden to choose it for its last night.

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outlawgardener  – (July 7, 2014 at 8:56 AM)  

A bittersweet post indeed. Poor little guy.

Lisa  – (July 7, 2014 at 9:57 AM)  

That's mange. We had the same thing happen in our neighborhood two summers ago. Widespread panic over rabies - the usual response from my transplanted from the city neighbors who believe every wild animal is infested and dangerous.

It is treatable, but without treatment the animal will die. The sadder side of nature, I guess, at least from our human perspective.

Lisa  – (July 7, 2014 at 9:58 AM)  

I should add - your fox may have been too far gone by the time he showed up in your yard. He died pretty quickly.

Alan  – (July 7, 2014 at 10:12 AM)  

Lisa: I had no idea mange was fatal! This guy was pretty thin, right?

Salty Pumpkin Studio  – (July 7, 2014 at 2:00 PM)  

Animal control should have taken the animal for at the very least an exam to help insure the public safety. I think its their responsibility to dispose of dead animals.
I think you are right about where the fox decided to pass away, a peaceful place in your garden. You are good people for burying it.

danger garden  – (July 8, 2014 at 12:33 AM)  

Poor guy, thank you for taking care of him in the end.

Lisa  – (July 8, 2014 at 8:13 AM)  

Very thin, yes. We were told that many mange infested foxes die of starvation. The constant itching and infections that result make it hard for them to find food - hence the reason they hang out around humans, hoping for an easy food source.

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