New Neighbors: The Vulpe vulpes

A new family has moved in behind us.  A mom, a dad, and nine kids.  The mom and dad were here last year at this time but with six different kids.  How could this be?  (Will & Liam love word play.  It’s rubbing off.) We have a fox family living in the ledge that we share with three to four of our human backyard neighbors.  For non-Massachusetts residents, ledge is another name for rocky soil – I think.  Picture yourself digging a hole with a spade, putting all your force into the “push,” expecting dirt to give way to the metal, only for the spade come to a dead stop, and feeling that “push” reverberate back through your body.  That’s underground ledge.  We have a row of ledge – above ground it’s made up of large boulders, underground who knows – in our backyard.

Summer and fall, our woodchuck lives in it, but now it’s a fox den.  The woodchuck was there first, which makes me wonder:  Is he the landlord or just dinner if he doesn’t agree to move out for a few months?  We saw the dad in late January, cozying up in the sun.  Perhaps he was working out rent payments with the woodchuck.

Last year we watched six babies grow up, first spotting them after they had started to turn red.  This year, they are younger: brown with little white tips on their tails.  They are cute, strange little things.  They look like dogs but move like cats.  Pouncing & rolling on each other without a sound.

I didn’t bother to mention the family to our builders.  With all the noise they were making, I didn’t think the fox family would come out while they were working.  But the day after we first saw the babies, I got a call from the builder.  “I wasn’t sure if you know that you have an interesting... family living in your backyard.”

Yes, we have a family of Vulpe vulpe: the scientific name for "red fox."