Have you been seeing foxes in your neighborhood lately? For the first time? Or more than usual? Do you hear them screaming and shrieking like they’re possessed? Does all this make you a little jittery, or even a little panicky?
Relax. You’re almost certainly not surrounded by a marauding legion of rabid beasts. There’s a reassuring reason for the heightened activity, visibility, and general rabble-rousing of your friendly neighborhood foxes: it’s mating season. The blooming of crocuses, the return of robins, longer daylight hours . . . these signs all herald the coming of spring—finally! And spring is baby season for our local wildlife, and foxes are no exception.
The other night, I was walking my dog and suddenly a fox came streaking across the street so close and so fast that I think it ruffled my dog’s fur. Five seconds later another fox came bounding after it. My dog and I stood stock-still, entranced and enchanted while they frolicked and chased playfully on my neighbor’s lawn before melting back into the darkness.
I’d seen this behavior before—the early phase of fox courtship—on the frozen creek behind my house. One afternoon at dusk (yup, it was still light out—healthy foxes may be seen at any time of day) I saw a fox trotting along the iced-over stream. Several yards behind was another fox in eager but restrained pursuit. The first fox kept looking over her shoulder, and the second fox would hang back a second before trailing her again. This is Boy Meets Girl in the fox world. They don’t rush into thing. They test the waters and take time to get to know each other.
A few days later I saw a fox pair again, presumably the same twosome, frisking around on the ice and, dare I say, flirting. At the time, our creek was solid enough to bear their weight, which isn’t much—the average fox weighs only 8 pounds! I often saw these beguiling creatures traveling together at dusk or dawn.
If you’re lucky enough to see foxes in your neighborhood, you might give yourself and your community a pat on the back for allowing nature and local wildlife to hang on in spite of all the changes we’ve made to the suburban landscapes we share. As a native species, one that was here long before we were, foxes have every right to inhabit the wooded areas that make this area so appealing to people. It is the human population that must learn to be tolerant and coexist with the magnificent creatures we share our homes with.
To learn more about foxes, your local Animal Control team, and for links to useful fox information, visit www.AlexandriaAnimals.org/foxes
Written by Karen Baragona, Volunteer for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria