Red foxes are plentiful in the foothills

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By Sylvia Brockner

A few weeks ago while visiting the Evergreen Library, I noticed a female red fox curled up asleep in one of the landscape areas. Everyone was asking, “Why is she asleep in broad daylight” and “What is she doing there?”
One, she was asleep because she had probably hunted all night and was tired. Why in that particular spot? The landscape area had been mulched with water-washed pebbles of a fairly good size and was facing east to southeast where they had been heated all morning by the sun was sheltered from the wind. It was both warm and dry. What better spot to take a nap?
It also had probably been fed by some human beings although everyone claims not to do so. But when she woke and saw everyone watching her through the glass door, she did not run but came to the door and begged for food. It was this standing on her hind legs with her front paws trying to open the door that was pretty good evidence that someone had been feeding her.
She has mated with a black male for the past several years, and we now have some partially black red foxes in our neighborhood. I have seen them many times over the years in such morning nap locations along a south-facing road such as a southeast flank of a hill below our house.
According to the Division of Wildlife records, red foxes can live 25 years in captivity and three to four years in the wild. By those standards, our pair are a couple of senior citizens but I think they are courting and will have another litter this year.
Baby red fox are quite undeveloped when born but open their eyes when about 9 days of age and develop rapidly. They are usually beginning to leave the dens to play outside when 4 to 5 weeks old and start learning to hunt with the adults when 8 to 12 weeks old. Usually, they stay close to the den until 16 to 20 weeks old, hunting most of their own food. Females and males often break up over winter and chase the young out of their territories. If they disperse, that means more food for each fox and better survival for the current young.
Evergreen has the most beautiful red foxes. First, because they are naturally beautiful animals and second because of the many fox farms in the area that had chosen only the black phase of the red fox to breed for its highly desirable fur. When the bottom fell out of the fur market, these fox farms could no longer continue to feed animals that could not be sold, and many of the farms simply opened their cages and let the foxes go. As a result, we have red foxes, which have a higher percent of black phase genes, resulting in exceptional color.
Many have so much black that they almost look like the gray fox. Scientists of today believe that foxes and wolves were the strains from which our domestic dogs were bred. They have been doing some amazing genetic work with the arctic fox in Siberia and have “pet” foxes in several colors, which come out at a whistle and walk on leashed and lick their keepers. Sounds like a dog, doesn’t it?
The red fox has become very numerous in this area. When we first moved her in 1965, all of the foxes we saw were gray. Now they are mostly red. The gray fox is a bit smaller and likes more forested country. As we clear the land for buildings, we open it up to meet the red fox’s needs, and they have multiplied rapidly.
Foxes are subject to rabies, distemper and other dog diseases. Therefore, you should be sure to have your dog have these shots and any others available to keep them in good health. Unfortunately, there are no shots for wild fox, and they may become infected.
Never feed a wild fox. They are naturally thin, wiry animals, to make them better mouse hunters and are not starving as many people think. Just watch these beautiful animals in the wild. They are fairly easy to photograph, and just enjoy observing a wild animal in the wild.