Over 40 years ago we built our house in woodland that had developed in a long-abandoned pasture. Choosing to live in that location we also chose to share the space that was already home to a large variety of wildlife. From white-footed mice to star-nosed moles; turkeys and pileated woodpeckers; white-tailed deer and black bears, we’ve seen a lot of species – some only a few times, others frequently. One of our wild neighbors that I’ve never seen here and my wife has seen but once is a gray fox.
Because humans are diurnal critters and most other mammals are primarily nocturnal, I’ve kept at least one camera trap out behind the house for as long as I’ve used them. Although I took the camera traps out of the Big Woods well before hunting seasons began, the ones behind the house were left in place.
While the gray fox keeps out of sight, it doesn’t escape the camera traps. Yesterday, a check of the cards from two cameras out back revealed 412 photos including 193 of one or more gray fox – so the gray fox certainly isn’t camera shy. It’s not even shy of the camera’s flash, with sequences of photos taken over a short time as rapidly as the camera’s flash capacitor could recharge.
The gray fox is an interesting animal: the only canid that regularly climbs trees; it may form lifelong pairs; it eats about anything, from nuts and berries to mice, birds and rabbits; and prefers extensive woodland. They spend the day in a den, usually among or beneath rocks, in a hollow log or perhaps in an old woodchuck burrow. On the ridge above the house are extensive rocky areas where the fox probably spends the day, but there are a few scattered fallen hollow trees that would make suitable den sites. In any case, in all my wanderings I’ve never found a den.
We’re glad to have the gray fox for a neighbor; it keeps to itself, doesn’t make much noise, and doesn’t seem to mind having its picture taken.