One humid morning, as I was hiking and exploring some off beaten trail in Arcadia, I stepped from the dense forest trees and into a jungle like parking lot that was overgrown with weeds and small trees. The anxious signal call of a blue jay drew my attention and as I entered the small clearing I noticed a small flock of birds chatting away in a small bush to my left. But immediately in front of me, stalking close to the ground was a red fox that now stared at and stalked me. It was ridiculously close at around 10 feet.
In most cases this red fox should have quickly turned and bounded away into the dark forest but it suddenly took three or four steps directly towards me as if to attack. I backed up, raised my hands and yelled as loudly as I could. I was not in the mood to be attacked by a sick red fox and wait in line to get some life-saving rabies shots. My yelling and odd behavior worked and it turned and disappeared quickly into the summer woods. The last thing I remember seeing as it scampered off was a fuzzy white tip on the end of its reddish furry tail.
Since that time I usually have seen foxes at dawn or dusk while I am in my car. So it was a complete treat to have a red fox trot through my yard and spend five minutes rolling around and scratching itself in the afternoon sun. I grabbed my camera, hushed the kids and had them watch through the kitchen window as I took as many pictures as I could. The general rule is that it is bad sign to see a fox during the daylight hours because it may indicate that it is rabid. But this fox was keen on scratching itself, rolling around in some dust pit and marking its territory with urine near the hulking oak in the far back of the yard.
After this red fox scurried away, I placed a trail camera in my backyard to see if I could get a night-time picture. Instead of the red fox coming back for an encore, two gray foxes stole the show. Gray foxes are a bit more secretive and are excellent tree climbers. They also have a black tip on their tail and do not have the “black boots” on their feet that red foxes have. I learned that red and gray foxes do not have territories that overlap but a few years ago, my trail camera caught both foxes exploring a trail on the same night.
The trail camera pictures show both flash and infrared images of the gray foxes. The infrared images do not show color but the advantage is the lack of a flash, which can spook nocturnal animals. If it was not for this recent camera technology, I would have had to rely on chance and luck to observe the behavior of wildlife in the backyard.
I enjoyed seeing both the red and gray foxes, but overall, the serendipitous observations of the red fox with family members will always be more memorable than observations made with technology.