December 24, 2006

On meeting a fox in the woods

I've had a few encounters with foxes while meandering through the woods in my area. While I know they're generally considered to be pretty intelligent animals with highly developed senses ( Red Fox: Reputation and Description ), the ones I've run across make me wonder. From my experience, they don't really seem to be all that aware of their surroundings:

Encounter #1 - One afternoon while hiking the Seneca Creek Greenway trail, I see a fox trotting along between me and the creek, heading at an angle that would cause it to cross the trail just in front of me if I were to continue walking. So, I stop and just watch it. It's no more than a couple dozen feet from me, but it's totally unaware that I'm nearby. Finally, I must have moved or something, because it stopped dead in its tracks, looked my way, then took off like a shot across the trail and into the woods.

Encounter #2 - Hiking once again along Seneca Creek, on a narrow stretch with the creek immediately to my right and a steep hill immediately to my left, I look up the hill and spot a fox making it's way down the hill toward the creek. Like the last time, I froze and watched it. Same drill as above, except this time the fox turned tail and ran back up the hill as fast as its little legs could go.

Encounter #3 - This one involved two deer as well as a fox, and was quite comical. I'm heading down a short hill towards a curve in the trail at Worthington Farm (part of Monocacy National Battlefield ) when I see off to the side of the trail what appears to be a fairly large, hump-shaped rock near a tree. It caught my attention because there were no other large rocks visible, just trees, undergrowth, and old rotted fenceposts. As I'm going along, I suddenly notice that this rock has ears. I realize that that's no rock, it's a fawn and it's watching me. As always when I catch sight of wildlife, I freeze in my tracks. Out of the corner of my eye now, I also see a fox heading from the left towards the fawn. It's busy watching the fawn and is oblivious to me. I figure this is gonna be cool, to see a fox pass by without startling it. Like the others above, it's just trottin' along, apparently wondering why this little fawn is beginning to look nervous. Suddenly, the fox, the fawn, and I all hear a loud snort off to the left behind the fox. A full-grown doe now bounds onto the scene, the fox spins to look at her, then catches sight of me watching all three of them and spins again, and the next thing I know the fox, the fawn, and the doe have all disappeared practically into thin air. I cracked up laughing and continued on with my hike.

Foxes may or may not be smart, but they sure are fun.