Fox Tales by Paul Windridge
The natural habitat of this fox family group is among the gorse and wild flowers on the edge of a cliff overlooking a picturesque bay. There is a mesh fence which separates them from humankind, but the foxes have lifted parts of that fence so they can easily get in and out should they choose.
I happened on two sibling foxes one day purely by chance. They seemed relatively at ease with me so the following day I went back, took some food and was surprised when they made tentative steps towards me. They were invariably together – a dog fox and a vixen.
I think it’s important to say that I always let them dictate what they want to do and gradually over the following weeks we started to build a trust. They came to me, I gave them a little food, whilst always respecting the fact they are wild and have to fend for themselves.
In the warmer weather their surroundings are almost a perfect setting. The views are stunning and there is a plentiful supply of food.
During that long, hard Winter I still visited. Sometimes I’d see them, often not. It may have been idyllic in Spring and Summer but if there’s one part of the island where you are almost guaranteed the harshest weather it’s there. The weather there can be brutal – below freezing temperatures and gale force winds blowing straight off the sea would test the hardiest soul. That was when they were most appreciative of extra food, and I feel, the time when we built up a real understanding.
When Spring came, the vixen disappeared to make a new life. The dog fox found himself a partner and set up home.
In May a young vixen appeared. I assume she must be a relative because the dog fox looked out for her, and has done ever since.
In June his vixen appeared for the first time, and on my birthday that year, so did one of his young cubs – a feisty young female seemingly devoid of fear. Her sibling has chosen to stay hidden but appears on top of the cliff now and then for the odd fleeting moment.
It is obvious to me that the dog fox cares deeply for his vixen and she reciprocates. Foxes tend to mate for life. They take great care of their cubs to ensure their survival until they are able to hunt for themselves. I have often given the dog fox food and he’s taken it back to the den. I can hear him chattering to his vixen before passing the food over to her to distribute before returning to me for more.
I have seen how tenderly he interacts with her and how they are with their cubs. How they have taught them to play, and thus to hunt.
In the initial stages of our relationship I watched as the dog fox sat back and let his sister take food first, and only then would step forward to take some for himself. He has always been polite, gentle, good natured and courteous.
I’m not sure whether this has surprised me or not because I have gradually been introduced to their ways, but I am sure it would surprise a great many people – perhaps even those who may not like foxes.
Sad to say, these creatures don’t live as long in the wild as they would if they were domesticated, but however long they are there I will visit and enjoy their company.
I feel very fortunate to have found them, and even more fortunate to have been befriended by them.
Paul Windridge Generally known as an artist, video artist and music maker, he has now written a book for young children and is working on another. His short films have been shown in various film and arts festivals including: Paris, St Petersburg, Berlin and Zurich. His work has also been shown in events at Tate Britain, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: on BBC Big Screens nationwide, Big Screen Project Manhattan and at BBC Electric Proms. And he has been described as, “A poet of digital cinematography – turning short zen-like meditations on fragments of the everyday world into visual and sonic experiences.” www.paulwindridge.com and www.paulwindridgebooks.com