Gray Fox Report for August 2018

The Fabric of Bonding

The Tragedy of Two Pups: Dark Face & Bright Eyes

Submitted by William C. Leikam

President & Co-founder

 This is a true story as based on log entries at the time when the following occurred.

Dark Face & Bright Eyes were born out in the brush along Matadero Creek to Little One and her mate Creek in April of 2013. I watched and photographed them as they grew from being mere bundles of grayish fuzz into taking on the rusty and gray peppered sides, colors of adulthood. When small, their pudgy noses marked them as pups, but as they grew that canine nose pushed out. All the while they were growing up, these two played together, running, chasing, wrestling and when they finally got the knack of climbing trees, down in the Matadero Creek Floodplain these two gray foxes sometimes took to chasing each other up and down tall eucalyptus trees. Nearby there was a patch of dead willow trees with brittle branches. That’s where the young male Dark Face loved to chase his sister Bright Eyes.

It was obvious as I watched these two along with Creek and Little One who lay about nearby, that they were a close family, unlike some of the other fox families in the region. It occurred to me that through their playfulness the glue that held them together was that they truly enjoyed each other’s company even when they were not chasing or wrestling. They were family in the deep meaning of that word. That’s the only conclusion I could reach.

There were differences in these two gray fox’s foxsonalities. For instance, Bright Eyes was much more inquisitive, much more curious about things she’d never before seen like my handkerchief. Dark Face paid little attention to it the first time I tossed it to the dirt road just to see how they might react. Bright Eyes went over to it, sniffed it, then took it in her mouth and ran with it under a nearby coyote bush. I never saw that handkerchief again.

From my Gray Fox Log on September 1, 2013, at around 7:45 AM, as I left the area, I saw at the roadside a dead gray fox. Previously I had seen something lying beside the road, but ignored it, simply shut it out of my mind. I stopped, tossed it away from the road right near a dirty green power transformer. The fox looked like it was in good shape, as it hadn’t been run over. I don’t think it died right away either because it was laying on its stomach with its front legs extended forward and its hind legs extended back. I checked. It was a female. I decided it was one of the wild foxes from out on the Renzel Wetlands.

Although I reported the dead fox to the supervision ranger, expecting them to pick it up right away, it lay there for three full days. During that time, I wondered where Bright Eyes was. She was not playing with Dark Face. Little One and Creek did not come from the brush as was usual. They had vanished. Dark Face limped slightly, but more importantly, as he walked he looked like he carried a heavy load. Most of the time I found him down in the floodplain near the trees where they used to play. With Bright Eyes gone, Dark Face seemed to carry a load, one that wiped from life the joy, the play, the kinship, the hope, the bond that he and his sister had once enjoyed.

It was on the third day that I concluded that the decaying female gray fox out along East Bayshore Road by the green power unit was indeed Bright Eyes. My heart briefly sank. It was only then that I fully understood that she was dead and for the past three days I had been in denial. The truth lay heavy with me it came with seeing the truth of that gray fox Bright Eyes there in an eddy on the river of time had left a family, especially Dark Face, in mourning.

From it all, I conjured a scenario that blossomed like this: Sometime during that night, Bright Eyes and Dark Face were probably chasing each other out along East Bayshore Road, playing on the warm asphalt when a deep sound raced from nowhere, tossing her off to the side of the road and there she shook and sighed. Dark Face may have been clipped, or maybe the tire of that deadly car had hit his paw, thus his limp.

As I put it all together, I saw how bonded these foxes were and just what happens when such a bond is bloodied by a car, by a hunter, by a trapper, by a poacher, or a fight with another; anything that kills and separates. Such emotional bonding plays out across the world of wildlife be they wolves, be they bears, be they raccoons, or most any other animal that walks this Earth including ourselves. We humans must begin to accept all other animals as having emotions, as having thoughts, of enjoying life much the same as you and I.