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Friday, June 10, 2016

The continuing fox saga

Rather than make yet another update to the previous blog entry, we'll start with a fresh one.

Caryl's prepared a couple of blinds and has waited for the fox to show from sunset to complete loss of light (astronomical twilight).  The fox hasn't yet shown while she's out during that period.  Yesterday the fox appeared briefly in the morning, enough for the chickens to make a ruckus but then trotted away, and so Caryl tried again this morning, no joy.

Yesterday evening, though, the fox either got remarkably bold or suffered from a bad case of target fixation.  Caryl was sitting in a camp chair watching the chickens while they had some supervised free range time.  I was on the lawn tractor pulling the "water pig" (a 35 gallon tank that kinda looks like an over-sized piggy bank) to water the new shade trees around Dunrovin.  With Caryl in the midst of the chickens and me making a lot of noise with the lawn tractor and trailer, we didn't think the fox would do more than watch us from concealment -- and so we didn't have the rifle handy.  You can see where this is going.

I finished with the shade trees and drained the last of the water in the fruit orchard, and then I drove up to the garage to take care of a few things.  We figure the fox must've thought I'd gone in, and between Caryl not moving for sufficiently long and the fox becoming fixated on its target, it must've forgotten that Caryl was there.  It broke out of the hayfield near the garden and made straight for Violet.  Right in front of the game camera.  It would've been a great video if the memory card wasn't still in the house from us reviewing the previous night's videos.

I became aware of this when I heard Caryl yelling and then trying to make dog-like noises.  (It came out as her yelling Bark! Bark! but the fox decided this was close enough.)  I took off in a sprint just as the fox released Violet.  Now, back in high school track, I ran distance.  The only time I ran less than 1600m was as part of a relay.  An all-out burst of speed isn't my thing.  It's been three decades since I ran high school track.  Nonetheless, I think this would've been my fastest 200m sprint ever.  Even the half-dozen hens who were high-tailing it for the basement door (where they expected the Boy, aka "chicken king," to be) decided to go around me rather than insist on the right-of-way as we ran past each other in opposite directions.

We lost the fox when it dove into the cow pasture.  Even still I continued my run trying to locate it while also contemplating whether I could hurdle the barbed wire (the hurdles being another track event I never trained for) until I decided I wasn't going to find it.  Later we did see the fox's trail through the grass, but it was long gone.

We promptly rounded up the chickens and did a head-count.  (Cirrus, she of the previously-injured wing, had wasted no time at all in hiding, disappearing into the hayfield as soon as she saw the blur of the fox, and re-emerged only as we were wrapping up the chicken rodeo.)  The damage:  not much.  Fortunately, Violet is a wyandotte, and so she has a big, fluffy tail.  The fox misjudged the location of her body and ended up with a mouthful of feathers.  She does have a laceration from one of the fox's lower canines, so we sprayed that with antibiotic and hoped for the best -- so far she seems to be doing fine.  As the fox was retreating, it tried to grab Nugget on the run as a target of opportunity, and got even fewer feathers from her.

This fox has a nasty habit of showing up when we aren't expecting it and then not showing up when we are.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Time for a foxhunt

I got a call this morning from the Boy.  The fox was trying to figure out how to get into the Little Lolly.  The timing is interesting.  Caryl left the house at 9:15.  The Boy called me at 9:19.  I've read before that foxes will watch humans' patterns of behavior to know when it's safe to try to get a snack, and clearly this one thought it had us figured out.
Look at that white-tipped tail.  Definitely a red fox.
I told him:  Be sure of what's downrange.  Aim for the center of mass.  If you drop it, then go in closer for a headshot.  Don't touch it since it's covered with skin parasites.

The Boy positioned himself on the driveway so neither coop was in his line of fire (and the cows in the adjacent pasture are all on the other side of the field this week), and he took the shot.  The fox ran away with a limp, so it sounds like the Boy hit its leg.  He then followed the fox back to its den.  Now knowing where its den is, we're setting up a snare tonight.

UPDATE/CORRECTION:  The Boy says that he hit the fox's hip.

UPDATE/CORRECTION #2:  The Boy didn't see its den; he saw where it left our property.  After some searching, we didn't find a good place for a snare, but we did set a live trap.  (The fox will enter the trap alive, but it won't leave the trap in that condition.)

A trap shouldn't smell like humans, but like the prey the predator is after.
The girls are doing a good job.

UPDATE #3:  The fox is sly.  It's also not as injured as we thought.  As you can see in the video, it's moving around just fine.  We know the Boy hit him--he says the fox's rear right leg faltered after he shot it--so perhaps it was just a flesh wound.  Why doesn't he trip the trap?  We think he was more interested in the "live bait" than in the catfood, but with an extra day to ferment we're hoping the catfood smells extra yummy today.  But about that slyness.  The timestamp is off by an hour and change -- the hour is for daylight savings time, and the other few minutes are due to clock drift.  The nighttime shots are about when we shut down the house, and it got spooked by us shining the flashlight out the window.  The morning shots are shortly after it saw a car leaving the driveway.  It's watching for the cars to leave.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dunrovin's Most Wanted

Last night after we put the chickens away but while we were still relaxing in front of Chicken TV, I thought I saw a cat on the other side of the garden.  As soon as it moved, though, I recognized it as a fox.  (At first I was looking at it tail-on, about 70 yards away, hence the initial mis-identification.)  The fox got away, but we're about 75% sure it's a swift fox.  So I moved the game camera, and he paid us a couple more visits last night after we went to bed.  So far, no visits tonight but the game camera is still out there.

UPDATE: It's a red fox. Turns out not all red foxes are the rusty red that you've come to expect from Disney films.  The tail markings, however, are definitive.  Caryl confirmed with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources that it's a red fox.