Tuesday, March 30, 2010
But as I was standing outside on my back deck, an interesting non-photographic event unfolded. It started when I heard one of the foxes barking. The fox was close, just up the mountain from my cabin. Fox barks aren’t very loud—they sound a bit like a dog with laryngitis—more effort than vocalization.
I’ve been told that foxes bark to communicate with their mates. The mate may be watching the kids in the den or hunting on her own, and the barks are simply a way of saying, “I’ve over here.” The second fox usually replies to report its own position. Perhaps the hunting fox needs the call to find the den again. Perhaps it’s just a “honey, I’m on my way home” announcement, minus the cell phone. In any event, this morning I never heard a second fox. After the first few barks, I could tell the fox was getting closer and eventually I knew it couldn’t be more than about 30 yards or so up the hill from my cabin.
I stood stock still, scanning the too-dark woods, hoping to catch a glimpse. The fox kept barking but didn’t get any closer. Then several seconds went by without more barking, and several more seconds. And then from near where I expected to see the fox, I saw a dark blob coming down one of the taller oak trees on the hill. Now, red fox aren’t supposed to climb trees and besides, this tall tree went straight up for some feet before branching. But something was coming down that tree.
By now, the moon had set, but the soon-to-be sunrise was brightening the sky from dead black to charcoal. And then I realized what was coming down the tree. It was a raccoon. Likely it was the same one that Baby Dog saw in the bird feeder at 3:14 a.m. (I checked), prompting her howl of outrage, followed by her immediate removal from a place where she could see said raccoon to one where she could not and I could go back to sleep.
Fox and raccoons frequently share the same territory, and they also avoid each other when possible. I think raccoon scurried up the tree to avoid the fox, and perhaps the fox left its barking spot because of the raccoon as well. But one thing I was sure of—when the raccoon came down the tree, the fox was gone for this night.