Close Encounter of the Fox Kind

I went trail running without the girls this morning. A rare occurrence.

Being alone, I was rewarded with a very up close and personal encounter with a red fox. He looked very much like the one in this photo. I was running through a nearby State Park that features densely forested areas with single track trails and lake views. It was early in the morning. The snow has only just melted away at this park, and there are still several downed trees crossing the trails, so I had the park to myself. Without the girls, it was incredibly quiet.

I was surprised when the fox didn't run from me. I stopped, made some "come hither" chirping sounds, and watched. While wary, the fox wasn't afraid, and was clearly scoping out whether I might have something for him. I didn't (I don't carry treats unless the girls are with me), but I crouched down, hand extended, and continued chirping. To my surprise and joy, he approached, coming to within six feet of me, where he halted and stared just past me, to one side. I wondered if this was some sort of submissive behavior like one sees in shy dogs - avoiding direct eye contact - but whatever had drawn his attention was no longer of interest or a threat, and his focus returned to me. He moved another two feet closer and stared directly into my eyes, then at my hand.

What gorgeous eyes.

Dog eyes are deep, soulful, and full of emotion. Fox eyes are similar, although in this case, what I read in the clear, light brownness was mostly curiosity. When he realized I didn't have anything to give him, he calmly trotted beside and beyond me.

His fur, his tail...; oh my, one can see why, in darker times, their pelts were coveted. I've always bragged about Meadow's enormously fluffy tail, yet this fox's tail could give Meadow's some real competition: incredibly long in proportion to the size of his body, with long, thick fur of mixed red and black all the way to it's white tip. The fur covering his back, ribs and hips appeared uneven, in the process of blowing out a winter undercoat. I longed to touch his tail.

Later in my run, a grouse startled as I rounded a curve in the trail. She splayed her tail feathers at me for a moment. I stopped and watched her walk among the fallen tree branches and the just-emerging green undergrowth between the big, old Ponderosa pines and tamaracks. As long as I moved slowly and quietly, she didn't mind my presence too much. Had the dogs been with me, she would have flown away.

I missed having the girls along on this run - when they're not with me, my thoughts tend to turn to darker topics because I don't have their antics to keep me laughing and very much in the present - but the compensation was having these two wonderful wildlife encounters.