I found it fascinating and ironic that a family of foxes made a home in the drain pipe at the end of my driveway. For as long as I have been alive I have loved the character of Zorro which means “fox” in Spanish. They are nocturnal creatures who are extremely difficult to catch. As a young man in Liberty Township I knew plenty of people who trapped foxes hoping to catch them for their pelts. I always hoped that the foxes would evade capture—like Zorro—my favorite defender of justice. Only a few times did I see them captured, but otherwise they were like mysteries of the night. I would see them occasionally like ghosts sneaking across the yard—cat like, but large like dogs with their big bushy tails flowing out like the cape of Zorro. As soon as your eyes focused on them, they were gone again leaving their presence to be in question—as if doubt could be placed on their existence. So it came with some shock that a fox came to my home to give birth to her pups. It is highly unusual to see a fox in the daylight but because the babies had no idea what night and day was yet, they were up at all hours blowing the cover of the normally nocturnal fox. Here is a video of their activity at the end of my driveway.
Zorro is a character created in 1919 by New York–based pulp writer Johnston McCulley. The character has been featured in numerous books, films, television series, and other media. Zorro is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega, a Californio nobleman and master living in Los Angeles during the era of Spanish rule.
The character has undergone changes through the years, but the typical image of him is a dashing black-clad masked outlaw who defends the people of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains. Not only is he too cunning and foxlike for the bumbling authorities to catch, but also delights in publicly humiliating them. That last part is a trait that I have personally carried with me most of my life. It is what a fox does and if I had to identify with an animal, it would be that of a fox.
That left a question in my mind as to why if that fox were so smart, why would she decide to have babies at the end of my driveway right next to a road that has frequent travelers just feet from their play area? A fox should be smarter than that. Her nest was quite well out in the open causing many people to drive by and slow down in disbelief wondering if they were really seeing what they thought they saw. I watched the fox and her cubs playing and nursing just feet from the crushing tires of the large cars going by and found it interesting that the little animals never jumped out under them even by accident. The mother was secure in her knowledge that her children would escape danger. She seemed unconcerned.
Even when I went out to film the fox and her litter she seemed unconcerned by me. I deliberately stayed away so that the little ones would not become complacent to my presence, because they needed to stay vigilant. Not all humans they encounter will respect them they way I do. Many will want to make a coat out of them. So it is important that the little fox cubs not let down their guard. But the mother had made her decision after very careful assessment and her pick of birthing location was no accident. The nature of a fox is always a planned escapade that has elusiveness in their prerogative.
In the morning several times the mother fox would sit next to my driveway as the sun came up and I would drive my loud motorcycle right by her and she would not move. She had determined by some unknown method that I was not a threat to her or her children—but how did she know? As I thought of her strategy she was actually quite clever in her endeavor to give birth in that particular location. The success rate of having babies in the drain pipe is that coyotes, cats, and other small carnivores won’t have easy pickings of her cubs while she’s away hunting food. Her dangers are minimized if only she could have assurance that the humans who can see her in plain site will respect her space. The cars that go by are much less of a concern to her dashing children than the natural predators of the nearby woods.
The more I watched her over the last few weeks the more respect I had for her. A few times I had to chase off gawkers who were being too intrusive of her space, and the Butler County Animal control people had to be talked off the wire a few times—thinking that they needed to take some kind of action. My wife told them that the little ones would be big enough to go to the woods on their own soon, so their services were not needed. A few other nosy people behaved similarly thinking that it was their job to remove the little creatures from human eyes—because foxes are known carnivores and do kill cats and small dogs. To them a small army of foxes growing up under my driveway was a threat to their lives in some way. At our home we have an outside cat that lingers in our garage but is out and about in the day and the cat and the fox do not pay each other much attention. In our backyard is a ground-hog that is a full-time resident and harasses our two dogs with his pudgy body wobbling across the yard when he sees them. The fox has shown no desire to bother any of these animals. They are all living happily on my property without fanfare.
They will soon be gone and it is unlikely that I will ever see anything like them again. The more I watched them, the more cunning I came to understand the mother fox to be. Like Zorro, she knew how to hide from her enemies in broad daylight in much the way Don Diego hid in society disguised from his foxlike justice seeking alter ego. The mother fox had made the ultimate strategic move to preserve the lives of her children from the natural predators of the wild—she found safety under my driveway knowing well enough that my family would not be a threat to hers. And she hedged her bet that she would gain enough human support to fight off the parasites of humankind as she insulated herself away from the threats of the woods—until her children were big enough to care for themselves. The cars were surely dangerous, but not as much so as snakes, and other carnivores looking to feed themselves on the young babies—so the fox placed herself between the dangers of two worlds to find that perfect balance of safety for her children.
It was a bold move by the mother, but I am happy to have assisted her—a fellow fox of outsmarting the very nature of life itself and mocking it with her bold presence. Her daylight presence was almost like giving the middle-finger to the nearby woods and all the animals there wishing to make an easy meal of her babies. She knew what she was doing and I’m glad she did. It was a sight and trust that I will not soon forget. From one fox to another…………………………..adios.