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Foxes in the Trees

Foxes in the Trees

Foxes in the Trees

As a nature lover and photographer, I am always looking out the windows. In fact, after I pulled the screen out of my master bathroom window, I began to refer to that area as “Blind B.” Recently, I saw some four-legged movement from there and ran through the house to grab a camera.

While making some adjustment to the camera to allow for the low, late afternoon light, I noticed there was more than one critter.

I hollered to my girlfriend, Beth, as I moved back to my blind and opened the window. The animals were not only searching the ground for food, but also looking up into the trees. I was framing and shooting when I realized one was craning his neck to reach wild grapes that had just begun ripening.

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Before my time here, a grapevine had sprouted at the base of a hickory tree. The old tree died and early this spring its top blew down, casting runners of the grapevine into a cedar and high into an oak tree.

The death of the hickory launched the vine into growth and fruit production here before un-noticed. This was the lure that had brought what I realized was a family, eagerly scrambling for the clusters of candy-like fruit.

I concluded that the larger animal on the ground was the male. The mother and her young one were walking up the angled trunk of the fallen hickory to get to more fruit.

The male left the fallen trunk and what I saw next left me with my mouth wide open. I only hoped that Beth had seen and could confirm what I was seeing.

The male approached the oak tree and as if gravity were switched off for him, he ran straight up the trunk. He was twelve or more feet off the ground, mostly obscured. After he fed on the few grapes he could reach, he climbed down a limb or two, then backed down until he was 6-8 feet off the ground, turned and ran/dived down the remaining distance. I was agog.

I continued to photograph this grapefest as the feeding continued on fallen grapes and low-hanging fruit.

We later read that Gray Foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) also nicknamed Tree Foxes – can in fact climb trees. This ability is shared only with the Asian raccoon dog among canids. Strongly curved claws allow it to climb trees to reach food and escape predators, like the coyote or domestic dog. Beth, too, had seen the climb.

Some gray fox dens may be in trees and as high as 30 feet above the ground. As in my previous story of the backyard bobcat, I learned that foxes are not nocturnal but tend to be more crepuscular, feeding during twilight hours when fewer of their predators are out hunting.

Lately, especially late in the afternoons or evenings, I find myself looking out of Blind B. Often I will see the lone male gray fox and sometimes the whole family in their search for grapes, grasshoppers or maybe even tidbits of leftovers like a greasy chicken skin.

At times I find I am glancing up in the trees for “dogs.” A week ago I would have thought I was crazy and now I am just a little better educated and a lot more entertained- thanks to Urocyon Cinereoargenteus or the Gray Fox.

– John Cross, photographer

Photos © John Cross for Entertainment Fort Smith

This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.

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Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online