The Foxes Of Iowa

Molly tends to bark at anything passing through the backyard: deer, turkeys, squirrels ... leaves, wind, airplane jet trails. We get up and check things out when she barks, usually just thanking her for being diligent and leaving it at that.

But there is a certain bark that gets our attention. When she's going berserk and jumping up and down, it's because there's something unusual in her line of sight.

Last weekend it was a red fox chasing a squirrel for lunch. We were fascinated to see it running through the snow, when they usually stay up in the woods and out of sight. This fox had the squirrel in its sight until it escaped through a drain pipe near the deer pen. It dug around for a while trying to get closer, but it eventually gave up and went to look for another meal.

Red foxes are native to much of the country, living where they can find small animals and birds to hunt. They especially like spaces between forest and open pastures, which we are fortunate to have right here on the property. There are also many, many places where they can make a den, like rocks, a hillside in the sunshine or even hollow logs. If there are any old dens or spaces abandoned by other animals, foxes will take them over and add a few burrows during its renovation process.

From now until April, foxes will be filling their dens with litters of tiny foxes, usually 4-6 per year. When the average size of a grown fox is 8-15 pounds, the babies are tiny and need to be kept warm until the spring thaw. Mama isn't going to go more than a mile away from her little ones, so she'll have to find enough rabbits, birds, fruits and berries to provide for the whole litter.

It's always fun to discover something new and different on the property. We can't wait to see who wanders through next!


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