Sharing Our Yard With Red Foxes

Text and Images by Ashleigh Scully

Over the years I have had the opportunity to photograph many different red fox families. In every situation, I’ve done everything I can to keep myself hidden and reduce any impact that I may have on the foxes. It’s really important to allow the kits to not imprint on humans or prevent the parents from going about their daily routines of hunting and feeding. During these experiences I’ve realized that red foxes have become dependent on many different types of manmade structures, including sometimes the “stuff” around our own homes. These include drainage pipes, porches, sheds, log piles, boulder piles and even outdoor furniture  (a woman in our town has a vixen return to her yard each spring to give birth underneath her old picnic table).

Why do foxes use these things? I think there are many reasons. First, eastern coyotes are continuing to populate suburban areas and red foxes may be using our backyards as home territories because it makes them feel safe from these larger, competitive canids. Second, the structures available in our yards make good den sites. We have red foxes that use excavated groundhog burrows around our property, but we’ve also seen them use an old boat covered in a tarp, a shed in a local wildlife refuge, and a pipe used to collect stormwater runoff.

As a photographer, these “things” may not be attractive to see in photos. Yes, I’ve photographed red foxes on snowy mountains, along flowing creeks and in our hay field hunting meadow voles at sunset, and these opportunities are always exciting and thrilling and make great images. But the photographs of foxes using our “stuff” can be just as powerful. Because foxes in suburban areas in some cases have nowhere else to go. They are boxed in by highways and development and pressured by people and pets. At the same time, we’ve created habitat behind our homes that suits them just fine. At our house, we have had the same male and female denning for at least 5 years, and I see one of them almost every day. We accept them when they steal one of our dog’s toys to give to their kits, or when they sniff around our chicken coop, or when they scream loudly at night during mating season. We decided a long time ago that this is part of the experience of living where we live, and we love it. 

It’s important that we all learn to live with red foxes, and sharing images of them in our yards can tell a story that people can empathize with. This is what all wildlife needs.  

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