Sunday, September 24, 2017

Something Ain't Right

Many months ago I didn't feed gray foxes hot dogs. They could eat Kit & Kaboodle like everyone else. My fear was they'd hang around all night waiting for a hot dog and not allow my ring tails and skunks to travel back and forth from the river without being at peril. Then one night, a single gray fox sat in the parking lot not far from the side walk and just kept staring at me. It was eerie. It wasn't just that he was polite about it, waiting, squatted as a dog waiting for something to fall off the table, he's also the only fox who's eyes don't reflect when you bathe it in light. Maybe it's blind, or it has a different kind of eyes than the others. He sat there night after night, in the same place.

One night it was raining and raining hard. Surely he wouldn't be out there tonight. I walked outside and he was. Sitting in the rain waiting. I threw him a hot dog. He bent down, picked it up, then momentarily gazed at me as if showing his appreciation before trotting off with the hot dog. The process repeated itself every night for a week.

One night I walked outside and there were two foxes sitting there all polite staring at me just a few feet from the side walk. He brought a friend. I gave them both a hot dog. The other fox grabbed it's hot dog and ran off but my friend picked his up and gave me the brief acknowledgement as always before trotting off.

A week or so later I walked outside to see my friend, and his friend, both sitting patiently. I threw them each a hot dog and they were attacked by three other foxes trying to steal their hot dogs. I quickly threw three more hot dogs out there and they all left. My friend walked away, stopped, turned around, and gave me his customary thank you look.

The next night I walked outside and there were five foxes all sitting nice and polite. I said "Who's my friend?" One fox stepped forward and sat on the side walk. I threw him a hot dog and I expected the others to attack him but they all waited patiently. I gave them all a hot dog.

The following night I walked outside and there were eight foxes sitting patiently. I said "Who's my friend?" and they all walked forward and sat on the side walk. In time I saw as many as 11 gray foxes at one time, all waiting patiently, but my friend stands out, his eyes don't reflect, and when he receives his hot dog, he doesn't run, he picks it up, then looks at me as if he appreciates the gift before trotting off.

Since that night, an average fox night can be between 20 and 40 hot dogs. Added to the ring tails and skunks I've had some plus 50 hot dog nights. I don't feed them to the raccoons or I'd be broke. However it turns out the raccoons can all count pretty well so if there are seven foxes waiting patiently and I throw eight hot dogs out there two or three of the raccoons will go out and retrieve the unclaimed one.

On Tuesday night I heard that horrible scream of a rabbit having been caught and knowing it's life was about to end. I walked down the driveway and saw two sets of eyes together. The fox dropped the rabbit when the light hit him and I saw it run off. The fox then walked around the lodge barking and growling. I didn't think it was at me but he was pissed. All night I could hear him out in the canyons through my open bedroom window with a sharp staccato bark, not the usual clearing their throat bark. No foxes returned to the lodge Tuesday night for hot dogs.

On Wednesday night I walked outside fifteen times to feed the foxes and it was dark each time. No eyes reflected, not even in the far distance. That only happens when the mountain lion is around but the skunks, ring tails, and raccoons were all here telling me there isn't a mountain lion, it's something else.

On Thursday night I walked outside twenty more times to feed the foxes and I got this every time. Nothing. Not near, not far, no distant barks, no, nothing. The gray foxes, all 11 of them, have vanished.

Friday morning. I can't sleep. Eleven friends have disappeared. I walk outside and sit on the bench on the front porch. If there's a mountain lion then why are all the other critters acting normally? When the mountain lion comes down from the Anti-Cline nobody comes to the porch. No critter, no little people, of any kind.

The light is coming. It is the dawn. When I hiked every morning I loved the dawn. I could visit the canyons and see eight hours of everything that happened in the disappearing darkness by reading the tracks of night. The twenty or so minutes before everything is unveiled. These two toed tracks tell me it was big horn or mule deer. The scat tells me as it's more squared off then the Hersheys Kisses nipple that clues the big horn. The leaves eaten off the bush next to the tracks a little higher than the big horn can reach. It was an adult mule deer that ate here and left these tracks. So the hike goes. All the history that can't be seen in the darkness is here to be read and summarized for those that are looking and have the knowing.

I'm being watched. I look up to see my friend in the parking lot just twenty feet or so from me. He has made no sound while approaching which is why they walk the way they do. Outside of the foot down first then rolled to the inside. Back foot steps in the front foot track. Straight line walk, no sound. I tried to duplicate it one entire day and my thighs were so sore I could hardly walk. My friend just stares at me, with the eyes that don't reflect.

I walk inside and get a pack of hot dogs. I come back out throwing one in front of my friend. He doesn't move, he stares. The hot dog lays untouched. The eyes that don't reflect don't blink. He's talking, he's telling, through the stare. Then I knew. It hit me. I screwed up. I interfered. It was not my place. With the night the porch is mine, they are my guests. In the darkness everywhere else is not mine, it's theirs, and I am the guest. They play by my rules on the porch. Off the porch I should play by theirs. I finally got it.

I nodded. My friend broke his stare, walked over, picked up the hot dog, acknowledged my gift with bowed head, then trotted off.

On Friday night all the foxes returned.






The Babies

They're a problem almost every night. Knocking over a trash can, eating a trash can lid, climbing up on the roof to see if the ring tails left a hot dog somewhere, sleeping in the rain runoff spouts from the roof, breaking all the small branches off the trees when they climb up to sleep in safety, tipping over the bird baths to get a drink, and sticking a hand down the skunk hole to try and steal a hot dog and getting sprayed. After they eat their first two bowls of Kit & Kaboodle they go under the porch to sleep where they constantly whine, snarl, and fight with each other, right outside my window. Since they're parents no longer join them or apparently wish to hang around with them, I've decided it's time for some discipline. Every time snarling begins under the porch I go out and dump two pitchers of water down the cracks between the boards and soak them. When two of them are fighting and I walk out on the porch I can hear all the others scrambling to get away from them so they don't get wet. They do not like getting wet. I've read putting ammonia in the water will keep them away for extended periods. I'm not ready for that but they do push my buttons every night. The average life span of a raccoon in the wild is one to three years and a large percentage of their deaths are from starvation. Not an issue here.

Little Shy

The raccoons, when they don't want to face something uncomfortable, they just look the other way and pretend like it's not there.