Cookin', Critters and Chillun

Barking foxes and cheeping wrens

When I let our dogs out at 5 a.m. the other day – they were sleeping in that morning; today when it was hotter, their preferred time was 2 a.m. – giant puppy Catawba took off growling and big-time woofing at the far end of the yard, and kept it up. There was definitely something disturbing him and his pint-sized friend, Skippy.

“It’s just one of those dogs that lives down the road,” I told them, then stopped to listen in the dark.

“Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak.” The bark was missing the second note that usually comes with yappy dog sounds. I listened some more, and all at once, knew what was barking.

A fox. Don’t ask me how I knew, as I haven’t come across that many foxes in person, but it was probably some wild animal show I’ve seen on television, or maybe sounds from a visit to a zoo.

Just to be sure, while Bill and I were at the breakfast table a little while later, I did a quick computer search for “sound of barking fox.”

There it was, exactly the same. We even listened to “female fox screaming” but decided the sounds we heard four or five acres away were probably a male fox.

I was more fascinated than alarmed. We’ve only seen one fox in our neighborhood in the 14 years we’ve lived on Little Brushy Mountain.

I remember when first moving to Virginia more than 30 years ago, though, and the mere mention of the word “fox” would have little old ladies calling the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office, begging for the state fox-trapping team to be called in.

Foxes carrying rabies was the big fear then. Now we know rabies shows up more often in raccoons, bats and other small mammals that share the woods and backyards with most of us around here

I’m glad there aren’t state fox-trapping teams any more. The trappers came in with cruel steel-jaw traps, baited with fox scent. I don’t want to think about how many dogs, curious cats and other animals those traps caught, in addition to foxes.

I’d like to see a fox or a fox family, just so long as they leave our hens alone. There are plenty of white-footed mice, bunnies, birds eggs and berries for the foxes to eat. But it was exciting to hear that fox in the dark of the morning.

And as much as I love hearing morning bird sounds, I’m just about ready to shoo the baby Carolina wrens out of their nest early on our upstairs porch. I won’t, of course, but will be glad when they fledge. We don’t need an alarm clock at our house. The bird’s mama is a strong believer in greeting the day with her extremely loud and repetitive, “Cheep, cheep, cheep, CHEEP!” a few feet away from our window screen.

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