Friday, 28 January 2022

He’s cruel, cunning, messy, smelly and greedy but I still rather like Mr Fox

THE other night I heard a fox calling — a yap/bark/scream, not the long drawn

THE other night I heard a fox calling — a yap/bark/scream, not the long drawn out cry of the vixen on heat in the depths of winter.

Perhaps it was the same fox who trotted through the garden a few weeks ago, lapped from the bird bath and trotted on, leaving a scent trail and a scat, a dark dropping with a pointed end, showing the hairs of the rodents he had eaten. I found such a dropping on a compost heap where I had put an old wasp nest. The nest had gone but the scat lay prominently on top of the heap.

Some years ago I dropped a pair of gloves and, being a frugal soul, rewalked the path a week later to try to find them.

There they lay but oh, the smell... a fox had peed on them, obviously thinking “these human-smelling objects on my territory”!

I carried them home at arm’s length and left them on the hall floor. By the time I got them into the kitchen sink, the hall carpet reeked and needed shampooing.

Eventually I exchanged it for vinyl as the smell re-emerged in warm weather. I rinsed the gloves before putting them in the machine but it required two cycles to remove the smell and by then they had shrunk to child-size.

The vixen leads the fox in a circular chase when she is on heat, crashing through the undergrowth, oblivious to me on the path through the Spanish chestnut trees up to Park Place.

She is not seeking to escape but to lead him on and measure his strength and virility, like the queen bee who flies higher and higher so that only the fittest males can mate with her.

The cubs are born after two months’ gestation, from February to April, and remain with the vixen for some time, but you will have seen the sad little bodies by the roadside now as the young badgers and foxes set out to hunt for themselves. Roe deer also enact this sex chase in the autumn and a pair has passed within two metres of me without seeming to be aware of my presence.

And, yes, foxes are cunning and cruel, make a mess of the bins, kill more than they need, do not always remove and bury what they cannot eat and yet and yet...

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