Graceful Woodland Wanderer

A late October frost brought a little more animal activity to the woodlands. I marveled at Fox squirrels performing their acrobatic jumps as they meandered along “trails” in the trees. I observed many of these clever characters collecting pecan nuts, while others buried them for eating later in the winter months. Birds were busy harvesting woodland berries from trees and shrubs. I noticed smaller birds perched on tall weeds, feeding from the seed heads, now dry and ready for harvest. Even Daisy deer and her fawn Spirit were kicking up their hooves a bit. I found them playing chase – acting silly some early mornings after they fed at the feeders and made their way to the pecan orchard and beyond. The chilly and sometimes bitterly cold temperatures did not seem to bother the woodland critters. For the colder months, Mother Nature provides thick, warm coats for mammals, and abundant feathers to winged species.

Frosty Maple Leaf in Morning Sun.
Frosty Maple Leaf in Morning Sun.

I often admired Daisy’s ability to grow her own winter coat. As I petted her, I picked off fat ticks and small larvae from deep within her woolly fur. Though I generally detest ticks and other parasites, I really could not blame them for choosing to exist in warm, toasty conditions with a continual food supply!  I marveled at the warmth emitted from Daisy’s thick coat. The fur on her face was shorter, but equally abundant in hair. I knew by her increased activity that she and her kind flourished in the cold.  And, with the whitetail rut beginning, there would soon be much activity in the woodlands. Already, we had spotted a seven-point buck creating his territory in our area of the woods. Each year during this time, it is common to see does on the run, and a buck following closely behind.

In early November, I found evidence that a fox had also been frequenting our property. As is often the case, I discover various animal droppings while walking along a path in the woods, taking note that a certain visitor has been marking its territory. Earlier, I had been finding fox scat on our driveway, and along a path we frequent in the woods.  Most of the time, a fox will defecate in an obvious place along a well-traveled path. When fresh, the feces is slimy, tubular-shaped and tapered at the end. When dry, one can observe hair, seeds, or perhaps tiny insect parts or bone in the scat. It is not dense matter, but appears uncompressed and light.

Fox Scat on woodland path.
Fox Scat on woodland path.

Another sign of recent fox activity was digging at and around the mounds of gophers. I am always happy to note the presence of a fox where an invasive critter is concerned. Any animal that helps eradicate gophers, moles, and voles is a friend of mine! However, I also noticed a decrease in the rabbit population this autumn. All summer long I had delighted in these sweet bunnies, scampering and hopping all around in the woods. Now they seemed to have vanished.

I was on the back porch one recent morning when I finally spotted our beautiful fox visitor at the bottom of the slope, moving along the dry creek bed, his nose to the ground. This was a small, gray fox! At first I thought it was a common red fox because of the gorgeous red coloring on the sides and throat. We have seen many of those over the years, sometimes in the woods, but more often catching them on their way back to the woods after a trip to town. No wonder I had not managed to spot this visitor prior to this sighting. Gray foxes are very reclusive compared to the red fox, and they are also much smaller. This fellow could be mistaken for a house cat, if it wasn’t for the flamboyant, bushy tail that gave its identification away. Its movement was graceful and unhurried. As I photographed this handsome creature, it paused for a moment and looked straight at me. It quickly decided I was no threat and went about its business of following scent. It lingered a bit, investigating an odor on the gate, and then swiftly scuttled underneath and trotted off to the pecan orchard.

Gray Fox Gray Fox Gray Fox Gray Fox Gray Fox Gray Fox

After that sighting, it was almost daily that I observed the gray fox moving about in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes in the afternoon sun he could be found perched on the old bathtub, now used as a water source for wildlife. And every so often, I spotted him seemingly making his way into town, jumping over a low fence and disappearing into a neighbor’s backyard. 

I was a bit worried last week, however, when FD spotted our graceful friend at the bottom of the slope moving in a peculiar manner. FD stated the fox appeared to have hurt its back, and it was coughing or hacking repeatedly. He managed a few quick photographs before the fox hobbled off. Looking at his photos, it was apparent he was in a bad way. One eye looked watery with obvious mucous present, and the other eye looked dull. I wondered if a recent storm had brought a limb down on his back, or perhaps he had been in a skirmish with another animal. But the eye issues bothered me more. What if our friend had an illness or disease?

Gray Fox Gray Fox

FD captured these photos of the gray fox with an apparent back injury, a hacking cough, and dull eyes.
FD captured these photos of the gray fox with an apparent back injury, a hacking cough, and dull eyes.

For more than a week I did not see our friend. Worried, I spent more time frequenting the woods, looking for signs of the gray fox. I checked for fox tracks in the snow, and I checked a couple of holes at the bases of trees that had served as fox dens in the past, but there was no sign of entry or exit. I now wondered if our friend was suffering somewhere or had possibly even died. I was used to such happenings, living so closely with woodland critters, but it is never easy to bid farewell to a good friend.

And then yesterday evening, as I filled the feed tubs at the bottom of the slope, I found fresh fox scat on top of an old pile of deer chow that I had dumped after the snow. The feed had become swollen from moisture and I had tossed it, knowing some varmint would find feast on the still nutritious glop! The fox had marked the pile for his own.  And this morning, a clear set of muddy fox prints marked the front sidewalk. Zoe, Bear, and Mr. T discovered an interesting scent near spent marigolds, and each took a turn marking the spot. The fox had returned to its normal daily routine. And though I had not yet spotted my reclusive friend, I knew that he had returned to claim his territory.

Zoe, Bear and Mr. T check out recent deposits of fox urine in the front yard, each taking a turn marking the spot!
Zoe, Bear and Mr. T check out recent deposits of fox urine in the front yard, each taking a turn marking the spot!

I thought about how I myself had taken sabbaticals from time to time, to heal from a cold or the flu, a physical injury, or perhaps an emotional hurt or wound. There were also times I simply needed to rest and seek comfort of the mind. Sometimes, nature calls me simply to sit quietly and reflect. I might disappear for hours, days or weeks, recharging my inner spirit. And, I had learned to appreciate these down times in my life, whether pain or unpleasantness accompanied them or not. Beneficial nuances were often revealed during these restful periods.

I knew that the little gray fox had taken care of self and was functioning properly again. I was happy to know he was making his rounds and apparently feeling up to par. And I can tell you Zoe, Bear and Tori are glad he has returned as well, as it has provided for much sniffing, investigating and territorial marking going on again!

Gray Fox

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


55 thoughts on “Graceful Woodland Wanderer

  1. These photos are fantastic and that little grey fox is adorable! I love your posts – the pictures are amazing, I always learn something new and your lessons from nature are wonderful. Thanks for sharing and I hope you’re having a lovely thanksgiving weekend!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it’s been a wonderful weekend! I hope yours has been a lovely weekend too? I found more fox scat today! Evidently our friend is feeling much better, marking his territory all around the property! I hope I spot him again and can get some more photos. He (or she) is quite photogenic. The gray fox is just stunning with that beautiful coat!

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  2. The fox pictures are really amazing as the other commenter already noted. They are incredible creatures and your photographs are really crisp and vivid which show how truly awesome these animals are

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    1. Thank you so much. I am always stunned at how unafraid foxes seem to be! Even the red foxes we have seen here, often look as if they are posing for the camera! They are amazing creatures, and I’m thankful to have opportunities to observe them so closely.

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        1. Thank you! We see foxes off and on throughout the year. Most of the time we see the red fox, but this autumn and winter we have had the gray fox to visit. They’re so small, though all of that hair makes them appear bigger! I am always thrilled to see one of these beautiful creatures. So thankful for a zoom lens to get a little closer for photographs!

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    1. Thanks Yvonne! Of all the observations and sightings I’ve had with foxes, I am always amazed that they are not so afraid of sighting a human. Many photos I have of red foxes, seem posed for. They’ll look straight at the camera and continue their routine as if they feel no threat from me. It’s quite an amazing feeling!

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  3. Wow! Those shots are fabulous. I stopped half-way through the story to steal Gray Fox for my Pinterest board. Please let us know when you actually spot him again. (I love the poop stories!)

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    1. I love these confessions of theft Sandy. I am happy that you post them on Pinterest. I feel like I’m a little part of your vast world! FD gave me a hard time about the opener of this latest post. Here was a favorite, and beautiful frosty leaf photo, and then the next, a close-up image of POOP! I know it sounds crazy but scat tells me so much about who is visiting, when they visit and what they’re up to. Poop is part of tracking a mystery! Perhaps someday you’ll visit and we can investigate together!

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  4. you could have been an excellent naturalist, because of your observations on the habits of animals. I love your pictures of the fox. The king of the woodlands. I wish i had his coat (Lol)!
    My grandfather (let him rest in peace), was a “ranger” in the North-East of France and he used to catch foxes with traps. I am not very proud of that… You know what? Fox tails collars were fashionable in the early century the 20th and he bought them.
    I wish you a nice sunday. My next days will be very busy with meetings and work,. but fortunatly, we’ll be on vacation in three weeks. I forgot to wish you a good thanksgiving, my friend, for you and your family. Big hugs.

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    1. Oh thank you! You know, I think the fox is still hunted in all parts of the world for its coat. Although I cannot imagine, as we once live-trapped a gray fox and it smelled so bad (we released it because we were trying to trap a nuisance raccoon)! I think a skunk had sprayed it and the odor was horrific! Smelled a bit of skunk and urine! So I’m not sure how one would clean that? Most animals do have an odor. We would make terrible hunters wouldn’t we? LOL

      I wish you a lovely Sunday too. I hope your busy week at work will fly by, and that you will soon enjoy basking in happiness and relaxation on your vacation. That’s the lovely thing about working hard… rewarding yourself with time off. I love you much… be safe!

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      1. These were red foxes. Perhaps the odor is not so horrible as the gray foxes’ one? The skin was treated in order to loose its smell… A few years ago,foxes were hated in France because they were carrying rabies. Today, this disease seems to have been eradicated. Yours looks great. Thanks for all, my dear friend.

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        1. Ii always find it fascinating to learn about regional differences. I think here in America the fox has historically been hunted for its fur. I have never heard of disease or predation being the reason to eradicate them. I do not like trapping/killing for fur, unless the whole animal is used. FD is a hunter, but we use the meat and utilize all that we can of the animal, also, thanking the animal for giving its life.

          I am glad our little gray fox is on the mend. I saw him just a while ago but missed getting photographs. He was too slick for me this morning!

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  5. Oh my wooord! You actually get to see foxes!! How beautiful! The snow flakes on your theme are really pretty by the way ^_^ I love how they fall over your pictures and writing… it’s soothing.

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    1. Thanks Anouchka! You can opt to have snow falling on your blog too. I believe WordPress starts that feature after the Thanksgiving holiday and it runs just after the New Year. Go to your Dashboard, then Settings, and at the bottom of the page check the title box called Snow. Once checked it should start up each year during the holiday season. If it doesn’t show up, your theme may not support the Snow option. You might check the Help section in that case.

      Yes, I see the fox a lot… but that also means I have to be watching a lot too. I spend a lot of time camped out on a log just waiting!

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  6. Thanks for again a wonderful story and beautiful photos! I am amazed how different this fox looks from the one we have snooping around our property here in The Netherlands. It’s gorgeous though 🙂

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    1. Oh, thank you! Foxes of all kind are beautiful! Their coats are just magnificent. And, the sizes vary too. I’ve seen photos of some in other areas of the world that are very small. The gray fox is slightly larger than a cat – or perhaps the same size as a very robust and well-fed house cat in some homes! The red fox is larger and about the size of a medium dog. Their habits are much the same. I am always amazed at the size of the holes to a den. Very small! Amazing woodland creatures!

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  7. What a beautiful moment to capture on camera – we only have red foxes here, and I have never seen a grey fox (I didn’t even know they existed until now!) so thank you for my lesson of the day, reinforcing; there is always something new and wonderful to learn 🙂

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    1. Thanks Rachel! I didn’t know about the gray fox until we moved here six years ago. We do see red foxes primarily, and they are a joy to see too! We are always learning… keeps life interesting!

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  8. That first full face shot is awesome!! Aren’t those markings beautiful!
    While I have between 4 and 6 foraging deer each morning, and a few turkey sightings per month, I’ve yet to see a fox. Kinda envious actually 🙂

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    1. I just love the white, brown, gray and black markings. Some of the photos aren’t the greatest but I wanted to show all angles. I love the black stripe down the back as well. I spend a lot of time tucked away in shrubs or sitting on a downed tree with my camera, waiting for wildlife traffic. I also see foxes a good bit out of the kitchen and computer room windows where I see them follow an animal trail from the slope, to the street out front, and beyond into town. Foxes are not just nocturnal – I see them all hours. I bet if you had the time to sit and watch, you’d see one. We often see the foxes perched on the bathtub edge for water, so providing a good water source helps too!

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  9. Lori, I saw what I thought was a coyote a few weeks back. I now believe it was a little fox! (that was here, but I hope to see them up on the mtn. too) What a beautiful place you have built for your wild creatures and yourselves.
    Again, I have loved the photographs, and now I am caught up! 😀

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    1. I’m glad you got caught up! That happens to me a good bit. I think you’ll be surprised the variety of wildlife you’ll see at the Mountain Farmlet. The more time you spend outdoors or looking out windows, following trails and doing some tracking, the more you’ll learn and be aware. It’s pretty awesome what 10 little acres will support. And really, only 4 of our 10 acres are woods!

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  10. Good to see WordPress has come to the party and has added snow to your post…not quite the same on Serendipity Farm where I, too, have snow in the middle of summer…hmmm! Your grey fox is beautiful :). We can learn so much from stopping our maniacal, hurtling pathway to no-where and watching nature and how she moves with the seasons and heals herself. Pulling in and back is a natural thing. Dealing with the “hurt” and then slowly feeling your way back to the world again is an entirely natural thing to do. Earl spends a lot of time sniffing where he has marked on our early morning walks. He would like to spend a whole lot MORE time sniffing but the purpose of the outing is “walk” and walk we shall Mr E! ;).

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    1. Oh, Fran, your words always ring true for me. Many has been the time I needed to care for self, and withdraw from the world for a while. It is a lovely thing to know we are not so different than the animals. I love your perspective on life, my friend. Oh, and the snow is an option for everyone (unless your theme doesn’t support it). It’s on your Dashboard, under Settings and then General, and at the bottom a box checked for snow. It comes on each year just after Thanksgiving and stops just after the first of the year.

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      1. Its snowing in the middle of summer on Serendipity Farm…”WOOT!” snowmen for Christmas! I might just have to put mine in the freezer though… 😉

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        1. Yeah, snow SHOULD be allowed anytime we want to experience it, I say! We’re supposed to be getting a pile of the real deal again this week… starting tomorrow and all the way through Sunday. It’ll be sweet to have a little snow again. The big snow is going south and east of us, and that’s OK with me!

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          1. Really? No snow? Hmm, that would be sad for me. I like just a little… just enough to get my snow scoop out and clear the walkways. Just enough to have it last 2 or 3 days and melt away!

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          2. We get snow on the mountains and we can drive to the snow but we are right on the river here and we don’t even get heavy frost. I shouldn’t complain, that means that we get to grow all kind of things year round here but a little flutter of snow, a tiny flurry would be magnificent 🙂

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  11. Hi Lori, I have been reading your wonderful posts about the onset of winter and the activity of the wildlife in your area.
    The photographs of the vegetation encased in ice are amazing.
    The grey fox is certainly a handsome creature.
    The red foxes in Australia were introduced by early settlers wanting to recreate their European lifestyle. The foxes readily adapted to their new home and have wreaked havoc on Australia’s native animal population and are now treated as vermin here.
    It is a great shame that the foolishness of humans has created this situation.

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    1. Thank you so much Margaret! I love that you shared a bit about Australia’s history with foxes! I agree that much of man’s foolishness and disregard for nature and the ecosystem has wreaked havoc with animal and plant populations all over the world. It is always interesting to note that we haven’t learned much from historic blunders and mistakes. I sometimes wonder what it is that makes humans think they are superior and far above nature?

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    1. Thank you! Ice, snow, sleet, frost and fog… they all make for lovely photographs. It helps to have warm boots and clothing to wear so that plenty of time can be spent taking in all of nature’s beauty and treasure! I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

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