The forest was the home to rabbits, squirrels, birds and deer. It was also the home of Ralph the red fox. The red fox almost always make their den within a few hundred yards of water. This was the perfect home for Ralph. He was now looking for a new burrow that some other animal had already dug. He planned to find one near the lake and widen it at its opening. Next he would dig it further making it into a tall oval shape so if necessary he could bolt out quickly. This excavated front end would also serves as a kind of “porch” where he could rest and not be exposed to the wind. He must be careful to select a den with good drainage. Unlike the groundhog he would dig the dirt by kicking it backwards. He was not as careful about neatness as is the groundhog.
Ralph had several other dens he used to keep food and other useful items. He was thinking of finding himself a mate and felt she might be more comfortable in a new den. The months of warm weather were about to draw to a close and Ralph wanted to at least get a suitable place selected. It wouldn’t be long before the cold months of winter would come and he would choose his partner. While other animals struggled to survive, Ralph would begin his courtship and he so looked forward to this time. His mating would normally take place in January and February the colder months in the south. He planned to curl up in his den in the winter months. When spring arrived, he would be out roaming the fields and forest again. Sleeping in the sunshine was one of his favorite lazy things to do during the warm months.
“Golly I am a bit hungry. I think I will sniff out some delicious field mice. I just absolutely love the taste of those juicy little buggers.” He muttered to himself.
“Perhaps I’ll begin gathering acorns and corn to put in the den. I can always find grasshoppers; steal chickens and fish for crayfish. I really need to stock up on berries, potatoes and fruit. I do have a sweet tooth during the mating season!”
Ralph set out to search for almost anything to eat. His sleek body was only about six or seven pounds, a little on the thin side for him. It was probably all the night searching he had been doing.
“I must be cautious, and posses extraordinary powers of hearing. A smart fox listens well so if he hears a human or a dog he can slide away quickly. I’m a smart red fox!” Ralph mused.
It wasn’t long before Ralph met Joline and fell head over heels in love. He could hardly see for all the stars in his eyes. The romance began and they cuddled in the new den he had dug. Every now and then he would rouse up and get a couple acorns to munch upon. Love was wonderful! Ralph’s coat was a rusty brown color and Joline’s was a cherry red.
“I just know our kits will be beautiful because we both have such beautiful colored coats.” Joline whispered as she snuggled up close to Ralph.
It was the end of March when Joline delivered six beautiful little kits. They were charcoal with a white tipped tail. It would be a good while before their coats would turn the color of their parents.
“Golly they are fighting again!” Joline barked. “I’m completely tuckered out from all the pulling and tugging.”
Young kits fights are very serious ones for the strongest one will be dominate over the rest. The runt of the litter often starves which is nature’s way of keeping the echo system in balance.
As the summer months grew warmer Ralph and Joline spent less and less time with the kits. They soon learned how to catch mice for themselves as is nature’s way.
One day Ralph came home very sick. He had contacted Rabies from a wild raccoon. Rabies is a deadly disease that wild animals contract and can spread to other animals. Once bitten by an animal with rabies a human can if not treated also die from this terrible illness.
“I must leave and go into another den so you and the kits won’t catch this. You take care of yourself and remember I love you very much.” Ralph’s eyes filled with tears as he slowly walked away. It was the last time Joline ever saw Ralph.
“What a wonderful fox he is!” She told the kits. “You remember your father as a great fox for anyone who gives up their lives for another is a hero. You remember what he did for you always.”
The forest and the lake are still homes to the red foxes. They are still solitary hunters and very sly creatures to be sure.
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Copyrighted July 2011
Question for children: “What is rabies?”