Lucky I have something

You are well aware, naturally, that today is Relate Something That Happened Last Night That Has Nothing To Do With Alcohol Day (that modifier put in there to prevent things from getting really fucking boring, because who needs to hear yet another story about people with no self-control?) and, as fate would have it, I have a nice little tale – had the holiday fallen any other time this week, it would have been something about, like, laundry. So here’s my contribution.

Returning from the nearby pond where I’d been getting more post fodder to appear later on, I was right by the neighbor’s house when I spotted a fox crossing the road into our yard. This was curious enough – it was still pretty early, and there are enough streetlights that I was plainly visible. I had my headlamp, but the batteries had been run nearly flat in my previous pursuits, yet I switched it on anyway and had a quick look around the yard as I came to it – nothing to see.

(It gets better – just park the yap for a second.)

I was just about to enter our front door when I heard a rustle and a squeal, and I switched the headlamp on again and shone it in the direction where the noises had come from as I stealthily crept down there. In the neighbor’s yard, a pair of eyes reflected the light back to me, their height and distance apart telling me it was the fox. Almost as soon as I saw this, I also found a baby rabbit crawling/scampering through the grass towards The Girlfriend’s car. I simply held still and watched the fox to see what it would do.

It became clear that the fox had not only unearthed the rabbit from a small copse of flowers and plants at the base of two trees in the center of the neighbor’s yard, it had no intention of giving up its prey easily. When it disappeared for a moment I changed position a bit, but it reappeared and I held still again, and the fox spent some ten minutes searching the area in pursuit of the rabbit – never coming anywhere near it, but that was likely my fault, since the rabbit had largely come towards me. There’s a streetlight directly across the road from our yard, so it’s never dark here, and though I was shining the (dim) headlamp in its direction most of the time, I have no doubts that the fox was well aware of my presence, and only my silence and stillness kept it from fleeing – that and the near-miss of its meal. Its persistence was impressive, because it was largely between five and seven meters from me the entire time, which is damn close for something as shy as a fox.

And I will note that I could positively identify it easily with the long observation. The dark stripe down the back and the lack of a white tip to the tail told me it was a grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) – we also have red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in the area, and their coloration is often virtually the same, with the exception of the details I just noted. Yes, I know, you’d think a red fox would be red and a grey fox grey, because sense, but the truth is they often have mixes of both in their coats, and they can easily be mistaken.

Eventually, the fox slipped off after I called The Girlfriend’s Sprog down to watch the show (The Girlfriend was already in bed) – she got a brief look at the fox, but it definitely decided that things were getting too risky at that point. We then commenced a brief search for the baby bunny, knowing that finding it was not too likely – rabbits know how to hide, and searching at night by dim flashlight wasn’t ideal. We found no trace of it, so presumably it got away, with no idea what injuries it might have sustained. And there’s no telling if the fox returned a little later and made a more thorough search without our interference.

By the way, I had the Canon T2i with me, which has video capability, but the light wasn’t bright enough for either stills or video, and the headlamp too far gone (I’d been using it for other video, which will appear here eventually.) Slightly frustrating to me, since it would have been cool to have a video clip of the search efforts, but such missed opportunities happen often anyway – it was cool enough just watching the behavior from such a close position. And I have to note that the fox was utterly silent while stalking agitatedly back and forth in the neighbor’s yard, and with its coloration, it could easily have been missed entirely despite the light from the streetlamp – I was lucky enough to catch its silhouette as it crossed the road, and follow through with it from there.

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