We first spotted the foxes on April 1st, when our laptop repair guru Gary Spencer spotted a parent fox out his window, looked down, and saw a number of tiny fox kits tumbling around in the snow (yes, we also had snow on April Fool's Day!):
We set up a "fox cam" with streaming on Ustream, a free online streaming service, and broadcasted the stream in the Commons so students could observe. It was a few days before we spotted the foxes again and we feared they had played a cruel April Fool's Day joke on us, but we knew they were still there by the occasional dead rabbit or crow that would appear (and then disappear) on the hill outside the window. A few people caught glimpses of the foxes via the fox cam (including a suspenseful interval where the mama fox seemingly couldn't decide if she wanted to feed her kits crow for dinner or not, and kept moving the dead bird around on the hill while her babies played below), but it wasn't until the next week that we saw the foxes during the school day again.
|Four fox kits seen from the library office window. The babies were not |
bothered by a few humans peering out the window at them, though the
parent foxes would not approach the den if they saw us watching them.
So we watched as, over the course of about an hour, the mother fox returned to the den again and again. The kits (seven of them!) would tumble out to nurse and play, and then eventually the mother would select one kit to carry away with her.
|Mama fox approaches the den...|
|...picks up a kit...|
|...nimbly climbs up the retaining wall...|
|...and trots away to the new den.|
|Fox kits play outside the den between their|
mother's visits to move them to the new den.
The fox cam was a fantastic way to allow the community to experience the foxes without being too intrusive. We streamed footage to the Commons and were able to record much of the removal of the kits to the new den to show later:
- Video of fox kits nursing and playing: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/45875355 (fox action up to about the 11 minute mark)
- Video of fox kits playing after the mother carries one kit away: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/45877090
- Video of the mother fox repeatedly moving kits: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/45877275 (fox footage from 0:00 to about 2:30, from 9:10 to 12:05, and from 18:42 to 20:43; no fox action after that mark)
In short, we absolutely adored our library foxes, and the obsession lives on in our office even weeks later:
|Mama fox. Isn't she pretty?|
We also used the fox as our poster-animal for this year's library item recall (final due date May 2nd, so Lizz and I can do inventory!)
Today (May 13th) we spotted a fox kit scampering around in the grass outside Gary's window, very near the old den. The kit hopped around for a bit and when it finally spotted us (oohing and aahing from the window while trying to take pictures with our iPhones), it climbed up the retaining wall to gaze at us briefly from the cover of the woods before heading off in the direction of the new den.
The kit was clearly still a baby (not even half the size of a grown fox) but now has the typical red coat of its parents.