by Kelly Torck from Almonte, ON
Oct 17, 15
We moved to Almonte for two reasons. First, to enjoy the more relaxed pace of life in a small town. Second, to be closer to nature.
Once in a while, those two things blend together. We’re always tickled to tell our city friends that our nearest neighbours are cows. We look forward to the small herd’s appearance in the pasture each spring.
We wave to them and refer to them affectionately as our “cow friends”. But, one spring, a different creature appeared in the neighbourhood.
I was heading into town on my bicycle when I noticed a car stopped in the middle of the road. There was nothing blocking its path; no obvious signs of distress. I slowed, preparing to offer directions, and I noticed that the couple was looking out the passenger window intently.
As I followed their gazes, I saw movement on the hillside beyond the ditch and I understood what the fuss was about. There, 20 metres from the road, was a mother fox and four young kits.
I had never seen a fox before. At least not in “real life”. And these kits were as adorable as they come. They were clumsy and fearless. They frolicked like dolphins in the long grass. I was hooked.
For the next several weeks, the roadside became a meeting place. As word spread of the den more and more locals stopped by to enjoy the display.
The mom fox kept a calm, cautious eye on the assembled humans, but seemed to have decided we weren’t a threat. There were folks on bicycles. People with crazy zoom lenses. Families with young kids – occasionally already in their in pajamas. Parked cars lined the narrow road like the spillover from a family reunion.
If you were lucky, you’d see the kits tumbling and play fighting, or the mom delivering a mouse for supper. If you were really lucky, you’d find someone there to share the experience, and hopefully, catch up on some news.
If I saw a car stopped near the bottom of the hill, I knew to give it a wide berth and a smile. I tried not to make the driver feel rushed. If I was alone enjoying the show and someone jogged or cycled past, I’d excitedly – but, I hope, also politely - point and stage whispered “foxes”.
The young foxes grew quickly. Gradually we began to notice there were fewer of them out playing. One by one they were making their way into the world. Until there was just the mom and one left. Then several days went by between sightings. Then a week. Then, finally, it was clear that the den had been abandoned. At least for the year.
Now every spring, as soccer season rolls around, we keep our eyes on the den. There were no guests this year, but I’m optimistic that at least one of those kits will head back home to raise a family of her own.
In the meantime, of course, we still have our cow friends.