Someone dropped a dime on a little fox that lived in my neighborhood in Forest Knolls last week, and animal control took him away. He was just enjoying his life; his coat was thick, and he was wary and alert. He was unafraid of people and accepted having to live among them. When I heard he was taken away, it broke my heart a bit.
I am sure some well-intentioned person was afraid of that fox, or thought he was sick. Now he is quarantined for six months, living in terror in a cement room. To me, it’s the same as dropping a dime on an undocumented immigrant, except the fox has more of a right to be here than we do.
Animals are usually born within a territory inhabited by their predecessors for generations. Humans, on the other hand, migrate great distances and go about the business of living in places their predecessors historically have not been. Either way, animals have first claim to the land.
When I worked in animal rescue in the South, I would quote scripture to show people that the Bible teaches kindness toward animals. I reminded folks that God made animals first. It was angels, animals and people, in that order.
If you choose to live on the beach, you have no right to complain about sand. So it reckons that if you choose to live in West Marin, you have no right to complain about coyotes, bobcats, foxes and all the critters that were here before you came. You moved into their backyard.
I can remember growing up in Florida, right at the edge of the Everglades. In the ’70s, gators made a big comeback after years of being poached for their hides. My grandfather taught me to be wary, to watch for the trails they cut through the grass, what their nests look like and what time of year the females “nest up.” We certainly did not let our dogs swim in those canals or lakes, or let our kids play on their banks. We learned to respect and live with gators.
If people can learn to live with apex predators, surely they can learn to live with foxes. We can learn that foxes are typically “predators of the edge”; as ambush hunters, they hunt along roads, trails and footpaths. A fox out in the open is not likely to be hunting. As to how foxes relate to cats, search “fox plays with cat” on YouTube. Of course, you will always find instances of one animal hurting another, but most times, that fox is too small to make a meal of your cat.
When I lived in Alaska, every other week I heard about an eagle flying off with someone’s Yorkie or Chihuahua. I have a Chihuahua, and I always keep my eye on him when he’s in the yard, and look to the treetops for hawks and eagles. I would be crushed if he got nabbed, but I know the risks. I could never blame a hungry bird for living its life where its ancestors have lived for generations.
I say this as an animal advocate and vegetarian: If you ring the dinner bell, something will come. To a coyote, your cat, and even your small dog, is food. Wild animals will not respect the boundaries of your home or the lives of your animals.
If you have a pet and you choose to let that pet live outside, that is your choice. If a coyote gets hold of it one day, that coyote did nothing wrong. You must take precautions, and accept responsibility for where you live.
You may also want to consider that, by letting your cat or dog live outside, not only is it a food source for other animals, it is, in fact, a non-native invasive species preying upon native birds and mammals.
On the flipside of that coin is the person who feels he or she must establish a rapport with a wild animal, to have an “experience with nature.” They are no less a harbinger of sorrow than a hunter. Leaving wild animals alone is the only way to keep them safe.
If you want harmony with nature, do not ask nature to sing your song. Don’t feed wild animals, and don’t approach them. If you are lucky enough to witness a creature in the wild, tell no one where you saw it. The last thing it needs is for people to start coming in to its territory looking for it. Do nature a favor and keep it like a secret.
There must be a balance between the needs of people and those of wild creatures, but to me the scales always seem to have a finger on them, not a paw.
For now, our neighborhood fox is in solitary for six months, when he would rather be roving the hills and finding a mate. I hope he comes through it okay. Next time you see a creature, think about its right to be here before you think about your own. Let it live its life and you live yours; then everyone gets to live. Sounds like a fair deal to me.
Gregory Slugocki is a Forest Knolls resident who consults on rural fire protection. He is a writer, an animal activist and a believer in a level playing field for all creatures.