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A Fox Enters Eden

I've started and erased my opening to this post several times. Yesterday evening, the girls were assaulted by fox. I believe there were two, which matches with the Virginia Fish & Game website on red fox, that they hunt in mating pairs once the female can leave her cubs and they stay together until the cubs are on their own later in the summer.

In the idyll of the evening when the light is long and the girls were taking their evening stroll, I heard one of them sounding off. Not too seriously, really. More like the alarm sounded when an egg appears or Mrs. G is annoying them. I went out and saw that one was sitting under the gate, which was odd. I continued to walk down the slope to see what was up and of course, the girls congregated to me.

A streak ran across the lawn in front of me, and I do mean that. In the yard, not even down in the paddock. I've been through this before and my brain just clicked into place that one of the girls coming for me was in danger of being grabbed. So I yelled. Loud. The Dude claims it was a primal scream, but the words "NO! Don't you Dare!" were in there. The fox grabbed her in front of me and held on while I ran for him/her. I was within a foot or two before he/she let go and went for safety away from the yard, continuing to run east to the fence line and safety in that brush. I would have smacked the fox, I think. The Dude suggested a foot as more appropriate, but I was essentially barefoot at the time.

It seemed a near escape and it was for that chicken. Alas, the damage was more extensive. The Dude began to round up chickens, count them down by my cabin while I looked for them under bushes by the house. He became alarmed at a pile of feathers by the paddock fence. One of the girls had lost quite a few and was in stress. But still we were short in our count. The Dude went back into the garden area and found more feathers, a trail of them. And then he found Anya, her neck broken. Anya, our most beautiful girl, a large hen of very light brown, almost blond coloration that distinguished her. Also known as Dumb-As-A-Post because she was always the trickiest to catch and round up. She must have been taken by surprise. We put her aside quickly and set up the run to collect the rest of the girls. Ten girls now. Two wounded.

As we do, we sat on the deck and hashed through the scenario, unable to understand why the fox hadn't grabbed Anya and run, why it would go for a second and then a third chicken. It made the most sense that there was more than one, that the Dude or I had scared off the other fox before it could take Anya away. She's no light weight chicken. Which is why the Fish & Game website made such sense, the hunting pair, the husband and wife, desperate opportunists.

We heard a bark as at least one of them returned to where Anya's body had been and went haring off down into the garden/coop/barn area, each of us taking a different route. The Dude saw a fox this time, saw how large it had been. I had the coop side and the fox never got close enough to that. Besides, I'd already seen as much fox as I wanted in one day.

I am wholly in favor of the red fox. I co-exist with them. I am actually happy there is a mating pair and a den in the area. We've had several road fatalities in the five years we've been here and one dead under a neighbor's deck last summer/fall. But they have other animals in their diet. The rabbits that run tame just about everywhere. The mice. The birds. The neighbors' chickens. But not my girls, please, even when they're free-ranging.

It was Walkabout sounding the mild alarm, by the way.
Frog Out

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
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birdhousefrog
May. 30th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
thank you so much for your thoughts. E named her after her godmother's partner, so it's especially poignant. She's carried that name and her Dumb-As-A-Post name since slmost the day she arrived, 14 months ago. Walkabout may be more of a character but for a long time we only knew which one she was because she was the one that was out. We've always known which one was Anya. I think that's what bothers us. That we failed her somehow. We know the risks of free-ranging, we know how much they love it. It's hard to accept the downside.

Oz
(Deleted comment)
catrambo
May. 30th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
:( I want to say my condolences, but that always sounds so cheesy. It's crappy and sad when friends die, whether they're animals or people. I'm glad you didn't lose any more.
birdhousefrog
May. 30th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
So far, the really wounded girl is out and sitting with the others, but not moving as much as she should. The other one just seems a bit shaken, the one I rescued.

I know the risks, I accept them. But it really is my little Eden here and while I understand the fox must eat, while I want the fox to survive, I want to discourage them from going after my chickens. By yelling at them. By having the dog pee all over the yard. By various gentle interventions.

The girls are confined to the run today. They need to stick together a bit. And not all of them are happy about that, but their god so decrees.

There's a story in all this somewhere, once it's percolated through my fantasy filter. And I like that userpic. It resonates with me today.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )