Picture of Gray fox in a tree.
Grayson, Renee. June 29, 2017. https://www.flickr.com/photos/132295270@N07/34827851523/in/album-72157708988379571/
Alone in the Forest
Today I was brought into the world. Everything around me seemed so bright and enormous. I also had a sister and two brothers that were born today. As I take in my first breath of air, my stomach begins to rumble. As if it was synchronized, my siblings and I begin to move toward our mother for her milk. My first day into this brand new world is very simple, I stay close to my mother with my siblings. I am anxious to see what this world will have in store.
For about fourteen nights of my life, I spent it staying close to my mother and siblings in a den that my mother made for my family. Now, I can finally eat solid foods which my father brings back to us. He is an excellent hunter and I wish to go with him to learn. One day, I try to follow him, but my mother picks me up with her mouth and brings me back to the den. It must not be my time to follow my father. Another couple of weeks go by and my sibling and I are finally allowed to go hunting. I am quickly taught my first lesson of patience.
The moon sits high in the sky allowing us to see fairly clearly in all directions as we sit and hide in the brush. The night isn’t a cool one, but more of a calm warm. After only a short time, a rabbit comes near. It is only about ten rabbits away when I take off. My father tries to grab me, but is too late. I’m already out of the brush and the rabbit is already gone. I head back to the brush confused on why the rest of my family is still sitting in the brush. As we wait once again, my father picks up the scent of the rabbit we had seen earlier. We follow him as we move ever so slowly and quietly using the darkness to our advantage. We are once again ten rabbits away from the rabbit and we wait. The rabbit gets within one stride and my father pounces, tackling the rabbit to the ground. To be that patient is skill all on its own. My first lesson will stick with me for the rest of my life. My second lesson was stalking. I was a pretty loud pup, always trying to step on the branches. I quickly learned that when hunting, quiet is key. After eating many rabbits and mice that my father brings back for us, I now have a scent for them. I begin tracking a mouse and follow it to a small creek. The grass is tall, so I use the darkness to my advantage and creep into the grass. I get so close to the mouse that I can taste it. As it drops down its head for a drink, I pounce and get my first successful hunt. Although I am quickly learning, I continue to learn from my parents as many moons pass.
The weather outside has now turned cold. I couldn't have prepared to leave my parents and siblings so early. I know it's my time; my parents have taught me everything they can. My last lesson came a few nights ago. My father used his semi-retractable claws to climb the tree. I followed him using my claws to dig into the bark and propel myself forward. I do not wish to leave my family, which is all I have known since I was born. My siblings and I all go our separate ways knowing we will probably never meet again. It is better that we live alone, this way we don’t compete against each other for resources. I head off moving south through the forest. I travel until light barely starts to show in the sky. I begin marking territory to warn others that this place has been claimed. I climb into a tree and rest on a limb until I drift asleep. When I awake, there is more light than usual. The moon’s light appears to be bouncing off the ground. Something has blanketed the ground and the tree I am in. I have never seen this before, it is wet to the touch as it melts on my paws. The color of my fur is opposite of this strange, cold moisture. I begin scavenging berries, nuts, and fruits. I dig a whole and bury my food. I then mark the spot with my scent. As nights pass, it is harder to find food and I find myself hoarding more food as resources become scarce during this harsh weather.
The cold weather has come and gone, and flowers are beginning to bloom. Hunting has picked backed up as rabbits and mice are plentiful again. The fruit has come back again as well in great abundance. I have been looking for a mate for some time now, but yet to find one. As nights pass, I begin to feel as if I may never find one. Being alone doesn’t bother me, there is a calming peace knowing that my survival is all that matters to me.
It was a warm night when I realized for the first time, I was no longer the hunter. I picked up the scent that something was following me, watching my every move from a distance. At that moment, I realized two things. The first being that this world was not created for me. To this point, the world had been gracious to me. Besides the weather changing, I hadn’t had to adapt too much. The second was that I now knew how the rabbits and mice felt when I was stalking them. It made me wonder if they thought of how they might get away knowing that that night might be their last.
I started moving more slowly as I knew a great danger was lurking somewhere in the distance. I could feel its piercing eyes staring at me, not even allowing itself to blink. Then there was a calm; as if it had been distracted by something else. Then a branch snapped to my right, almost on top of me and in a split instance, the chase was on. I darted straight hoping to out run this predator. I don’t have time to look back and see what is chasing me, but I can feel its presence on my heels. I soon realize that I can’t out run it, and I find a crack in a group of rocks that I quickly slide through. I sprint out the back and begin climbing a tree. I climb out on a branch thinking I have escaped. As I look down, I see my chaser. It is a bobcat that is bigger than me and faster. I thought I was safe until it began climbing the tree. I look to my left looking for a way down and I find a fallen log resting on the tree that I am in. I jump to it and sprint down to the ground. As I am coming off the fallen log I feel the vibration of the big cat at the other end of the log. I sprint across the creek that now has my paws muddy. I find a little crack in a group of rocks that I just barely fit in as the sides of one of the rocks scrape my back leg. I sit in here hoping that I have lost my predator, but I can hear it outside; sniffing and walking nearby. I stay put until daylight breaks through the crack I came in. I haven’t felt its presence in some time and I begin my journey back to my home.
Another cold season has come and gone. It was still a cooler night when I was once again out for a hunt. Fruit had yet to fall, and I picked up a scent of a female. I followed the scent until I first saw her. I was waiting to decide whether I should show myself. Did she already have a mate I wondered. As I sat there, she had already picked up my scent and came straight up to me. I soon realized, for a period of time I would no longer be alone in this forest. Many nights passed as she began making a den and I would go out on hunts and bring food back for her and myself. Then, just as I had been brought into this world, our five beautiful pups were born. I now have three boys and two girls that need protection. Early on, I hunt for my new family making sure that I can provide for all of them. Eventually, they begin going on hunts with their mother and I. As we teach them our ways, I see them learn the same lessons I had learned as a pup. The weather begins to change, and I know it is about time for me to go back out on my own for a while. As this time gets closer, I wonder how my pups will do on their own. Will they be chased by a bobcat, will they escape as I did? This makes me wonder if my father worried about me going on my own. In what seemed like a couple of nights, I am once again alone in the forest.
1.) Grayson, Renee. Photo album, Flicker. https://www.flickr.com/photos/132295270@N07/34827851523/in/album-72157708988379571/
2.) “Gray Fox: Cleveland Museum of Natural History.” Perkins Wildlife Center & Woods Garden Presented by KeyBank, 2020, perkins.cmnh.org/perkins-wildlife-home/woods-garden/gray-fox
3.) “Gray Fox.” Gray Fox - Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures on Animalia.bio, animalia.bio/gray-fox