Vixen. The very word conjures up an image of a slightly dangerous woman of questionable morals. The dress a little too tight. The cleavage a little too exposed. The hips as she walks with a little too much sway in their motion. The heels of her stilettos a little too rounded if you know what I mean. But the word vixen is also the name for a female fox. And we have one. A female fox I mean. We have plenty of the other kind too, just so you know. But I’m talking about the fox now.
Over the years I have been at the IMA I have greatly appreciated the efforts of our resident predators. Their valiant efforts help keep the populations of chipmunks, squirrels, voles, and mice from destroying everything. Admittedly I could use more help with the squirrels and chipmunks. There have been nesting hawks, visiting osprey, red-tail hawks that dropped by regularly, occasional owls. The year of the minks was great. You have never seen a really excited chipmunk until you’ve seen one that has spotted a mink headed its way.
The red foxes aren’t around every year. Or at least I don’t see them every year. It is usually a lone animal too. Some years they are quite tame. I should say “relaxed” around humans rather than tame. I remember being able to get rather close to one below the greenhouse. He calmly groomed himself as I observed. I say “He” only because he displayed that arrogance of a male that knows he is “Lookin ‘ good”. And the red foxes are a good looking group of animals. But they work hard too.
The red fox, Vulpes vulpes (sometimes Vulpes vulpes fulva), has adapted well to the intrusion of the humans and our destruction of traditional fox habitat through urbanization. Traditional habitat would be old fields (Hey! That’s us, Oldfields.), pasture and farmland, generally non-forested areas. Of course, perhaps our creation of old fields, pastures and farmlands increased the population since they prefer more open areas. Anyway, with the foxes’ adaptable nature it is not a real surprise to find them in urban areas like Indianapolis. They also eat about anything, which is great for survival in any situation. Their diet consists of mainly mammals, birds, insects, fruits (berries especially), and even grasses. I swear one day the kits (babies) were feeding on a fish of some sort. You can learn more about red foxes from the DNR and Nature Conservancy.
As I said, this year there is a female on site. Well, actually she’s not been seen for a couple weeks now. But hopefully she is sticking around. Best news yet? She has babies!
The first time I saw her there was only one kit. I was a little disappointed but then reminded myself that one was better than none. The next week there were four kits! I’ve no idea where those other three were during that first sighting. I don’t know where she has her den for birthing the kits. She was in the Interurban with them every time she was spotted but I’m sure she didn’t give birth there or at least not in that exact spot. Too much water would flow through that drain during rains. Both she and the kits would go inside the clay drain tile to hide.
The little ones were probably playing too.
She would eye me very carefully when I was trying to photograph her and the young. She became even more alert when she heard the sound of the zoom function on my camera.
A very protective mother there.
So wherever you are Mrs. Fox, thank you for choosing the IMA gardens for at least part of your home territory. I hope we see you and the kids often. Eat. Eat. You’re so skinny! What? My squirrel isn’t good enough for you? Nonsense! These are the best squirrels in the county. Only the best for my friends. Only the best for my Foxy Lady.