This is a bit of a shift in topic, but I’ve been intrigued in recent weeks by a group of foxes that live on the golf course where my husband and I play. They are beautiful, sleek, and not terribly afraid of humans. I’m not certain that’s a good thing. They run up to inspect a golf ball that rolls into the middle of a fairway. They sit on the side of the tee box and watch as you miss-hit your driver. They pounce after mice or voles that live in the rough that swallows your miss-hit ball.
We think that there are three of them. One has a white tip on the end of her tail that is larger than what the other two have. She is brave, too. She will actually follow you along the course, looking for stray potato chips or bits of sandwich. Like I said, I’m not certain this is a good thing. They are still wild animals, even if they live on a golf course in the middle of a large residential community.
There is one that has more of a black tip to his tail. He is a bit more skittish around people, and a little harder to find. He slinks around the edges of the fairways, ducking into the cattails or weeds if he feels you’re paying him too much attention. Watching him move is like watching a dance. He glides, reverses direction in a flash, then darts into the trees and disappears. His fur is glossy and his eyes shine like obsidian.
The third fox is smaller, perhaps younger than the other two. It seems to be the more mischievious of the three. It dashes out in front of you as your about to hit the ball. It runs up to sniff that small, round object that drops from the sky – maybe hoping to find a duck egg – then skitters back to the brush when you approach.
I don’t know why I’m so taken by these critters, but they fascinate me. I worry for them, hoping they don’t stray too far from the safety of the course and onto one of the busy streets that are nearby. I worry that they will become too trusting of humans and will encounter one who doesn’t care that they are rare animals; someone with a gun, or sick need to hurt things.
The manager of the golf course tells me that the foxes live around the canal that runs behind the east side of the course. He says they make a decent living off the geese, ducks, mice, and squirrels that live around the course, and that they have dens back in the trees behind the fence. I still worry for them.
Humans have this innate need to conquer nature. We are compelled to try to control anything we think is wild. We want to tame things like animals, or wilderness, to make them “productive” and adapt them to our own purposes. One of the ladies who golfs in our league has been bringing extra treats to the course to feed the foxes so she can get one close enough to pet.
“It’s not a puppy,” I said to her.
She looked at me as if I’d told her she was abusing the animal. “I’m not going to hurt it,” she said with an indignant tone. “I wouldn’t hurt it.”
“But what happens if it begins to rely on you for food, then winter rolls around and your not here to feed it?”
“They hibernate in winter,” she said. And she was serious.
“What happens if they look to humans for food, and someone who isn’t as nice as you comes along?” I was trying to get her to think about the consequences to the animals rather than her own desire to bond with this wild animal.
“They’re so cute,” she said. “Who’d want to hurt them?”
I thought about pointing out that there are just some people in the world who are cruel, and some who are just messed up enough to think hurting animals is funny. I thought about getting on my soap box and raving at her about how humans wanting to feed bears in Yellowstone had nearly destroyed the population of grizzlies there.
Instead, I walked away and decided to try to capture the foxes on film. I got the one above with camera on my phone. Next time I’ll take my digital camera. I’ll keep worrying about them, but I’ll be able to look at their pictures all winter while the hibernate. Sorry – that was too funny to pass up.