The Streetwise Cousin Of the Cautious Country Fox
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Recently a particularly big garden just along our road has been colonized by a couple of gray squirrels. I often see them springing like trapeze artists from beech-tree top to lime-tree top, or leaping up trunks with arms and legs spread wide. I haven't seen a deer, but some neighbors have, on the road just outside their front door.Skip to next paragraph
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Only once have I encountered a rabbit around here. The reason may simply be the foxes. The foxes are our local raccoons (since raccoons don't live in Britain): They are the garbage-bin-rakers. If there is one animal (apart from our mice, of course, and a multitude of common birds from pigeons, starlings, and sparrows to tiny red-breasted European robins, blue-tits, chaffinches, wagtails, and wrens) that has really taken like a duck to water to city living, it's the fox. Sleek and nonchalant, they meande r silently along the streets at night. They don't have a care in the world. If they wore hats, I swear they'd doff them to you (and your dog) and wish you a pleasant evening. Clearly they are having a pleasant evening as they take their nightly stroll.
They stop dead, sometimes, and observe you, standing in the widespread orange glow of the lights. Don't they realize we can also see them? Probably. They consider for a moment whether or not their chosen path might come just a little too close to ours for politeness's sake, and then trot without any hurry into a garden or down a side turning.
We don't often see them in daylight, though I did a couple of months ago. Our ducks suddenly kicked up a silly racket. I looked out the bathroom window. They were circling on the pond, and the most gracefully slender red fox was poised on the bank ready to pounce. I banged on the window. It ignored the noise. I rushed down to the kitchen, opened the back door, shouted like a football supporter, and slammed the door ferociously three times. He vanished. It was magic. I never saw him go. He was there. And then he wasn't.
Why, I wondered, should such a glorious creature be my enemy? Why can't he be satisfied with all the rich food waste he finds in everyone's garbage? He surely doesn't need, urban as he is, to kill to eat.
Yet I had to assume that he was the very same animal who, a week earlier, had done in one of the ducks and had him for breakfast. I wasn't keen to share any more with him. I only eat their eggs.
Lately some contractors have been laying new sewers along a bank between us and the railway. Three or four times a day a siren sounds and earthshaking reverberations follow, which make the house shiver: underground blasting through sheer rock. Since I hadn't seen a fox for some weeks, I had decided that this blasting had been too much for them and that they had moved house. Some city noises are apparently too much even for them.
But last night, while I walked the dog, my wife was sitting in the dining room looking out the window and this fox came ambling through the garden. He left a narrow streak of prints like a ribbon to mark his passage - down to the lower pond, across to the hawthorn hedge, then back again to the corner of the wall over which he had made his entrance. When I came back from my uneventful walk, my wife told me what I'd missed. ``He had no idea I was here watching him,'' she said. ``Or else he just didn't car e!''
I think he didn't care. When I lived in the country I never once saw a fox. Yet everyone knew they lived up in the deserted quarry, and every so often they descended in the darkest times of night and wraught havoc among the poultry. The Country Fox is a hunted, cautious, invisible character. The City Fox ... he knows he's as safe as houses. I think he should declare an armistice with city ducks.
`Kidspace' is a place on The Home Forum pages where kids can find stories that will tickle imaginations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, always on a Tuesday.