My earlier post about the Gray Fox was eaten after publication by WordPress. If you saw a notification go by, now you know what happened.
I’ll start over again.
The word “vulpine” means like or having to do with foxes.
I’ve loved foxes ever since I saw one darting across our field in the dead of winter, a flourish of color against the drab background of the Irish countryside. I was mesmerized by it as I watched from my window, and hopeful it would run far and fast, for though it wasn’t hunting season, it would be soon.
Many years later, when my son was little, we bought a copy of Run With the Wind by Irish author Tom McCaughren and thus ensued a shared interest in foxes. On fall afternoons, I would cover the kitchen table with an enormous mound of sand-colored, homemade playdough and read McCaughren’s beautiful stories about foxes and their struggle to survive as my son made burrows and dens, planting fake deciduous trees into miniature forests as he organized fox families from his large collection of Schleich and Safari molded plastic fox figures.
Now he’s eighteen and I wonder, does he remember? How hard I had worked to instill in him a love of nature, a respect for the land, a reverence for books and words. I probably overdid it. I overdid many things back then, but not love.
I got up from the computer just now and went to look for the box of foxes. They are somewhere here, hidden among the cartons and tubs of toys awaiting a playroom for grandchildren, the planned work of the upcoming year in which I’ll face everything I was too busy to look at as parenting ran its breakneck course from the start to maturation of one, once small boy. He’s too stressed today with coming AP exams, finals, and graduation for me to ask do you remember? It’s a bad day for sentimentality, even as the box it’s contained in has burst its seams from too many years stored under stacked weight.
The post I shared earlier was about the Gray Fox. Unlike the Red Fox, vulpes vulpes, the Gray Fox is descended from a different line, one in which just one other member exists: the diminutive Channel Island Fox. Red and Gray foxes belong to different genuses altogether.
Though all foxes are canids, the Gray Fox is native to both North and South America and has the proper name (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). Once the dominant fox in America, it has been displaced by the more adaptable Red Fox and it is now concentrated mainly in the western states. Its closest relatives are the east Asian raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and the African bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis).
The word cinereoargenteus means ‘ashen silver’, but the muzzles, necks, and tails are tipped with darker fur in the Gray Fox. Its eyes are rounder and lack the slit-like appearance of the Red Fox, and its legs are shorter and lack the distinctive “black stockings” of red foxes. Its paws are smaller, too, yet stronger and uniquely capable: Gray Foxes are the only canids which can climb vertically and dens have be found thirty feet above the ground in the hollowed out sections of trees. This is also explains the scat I found on my chicken coop roof. Gray foxes leap from branch to branch and descend backwards from trees like cats. In many respects, canid though they may be, they seem feline and even their young are called kits.
I took the following pictures during the mating season of 2016 using my Reconyx Hyperfine HC600 .
If you’re interested in beautifully written stories set in Ireland, I recommend you check out Tom McCaughren’s work. The first three books in this series are ranked among the top 100 books in Ireland and are published by Penguin Books. They are available through Amazon here. Should you decide to read them, pleasure consider leaving the author a review.