Vulpine Adventures Anew

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.

Red Fox, vulpes vulpes

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).

Gray Fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus

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.

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Gray Fox, Palo Alto Baylands. Source: Bill Leikam, Wikipedia


I took the following pictures during the mating season of 2016 using my Reconyx Hyperfine HC600 .

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This fox lives under our deck and likes to eat layer crumble


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Here, it seems to be calling out


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Even though the infrared camera is supposed to be silent, many pictures suggest that foxes can hear it just fine.


Cat food is always the first choice by discerning foxes it seems.


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Prim feet, eager mouth


An egg is a mouthful yet this fox seems to know how to grab one without breaking it.


And a duck egg is an even bigger challenge!


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.

9 Replies to “Vulpine Adventures Anew”

  1. The Fox River runs through St. Charles, and it has been my pleasure to see a fox in our backyard more than once. Chuck has lived here 25 years, and had never seen one. It always feels like such a gift to see a fox. I loved picturing you and your son enjoying your days together. This is such a strange time we find ourselves in as our boys get ready to leave for college. It is not a good day for sentimentality here either.

    1. Yes, it is such a strange time. HOW can the mind remember it all so vividly? I can still conjure up his gestures, and comments, his favorite words at the age and now, five minutes later, off to college. Honestly, you met him at his only awkward stage and I should shudupaboutit and count my blessings…the blessing that he lived…the blessing that I got to stay home with him and be there…the fact that he’s a good young man, never a real worry. He’ll only be four hours away going crazy with the other feckless youth. No worries. None at all. I’m working on it as we all do in the simultaneously damn-spanking-thrilled-for-them-how-will-I-survived-the-absence kind of way. I learn much from you and your kids and love to think what you would do with a chance to photograph foxes. Thanks for reading, commenting, and being an exemplar, too.

  2. I’m unfamiliar with McCaughren, so thanks for that. And I had no idea gray foxes can climb trees. I love love love Schleich animals. And he remembers. I’m sure of it.

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