Photographer captures wild side in Rockford’s backyard

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

(red fox brood of 4 kits): This healthy Rockford brood of four red fox kits sun themselves while casually waiting for mom or dad to return with lunch. (Look closely at the far right to find the shy one crouching under the bush.)

Living in Rockford, one of the things we oftentimes overlook is an abundance of environmental ambience. Woodlands, for the most part, surround Rockford, and the City itself has many types of parkland within its borders. All contain an abundance of wildlife and it’s not unusual, at times, to see deer, turkeys, raccoons, etc. roaming freely in the City’s midst.

Currently, in one neighborhood, a red fox vixen is raising a rambunctious brood of four kits. (Sorry—for the brood’s protection we have been sworn to secrecy by residents of the community as to the location of the fox’s den. The pictures accompanying this article could not have been taken without a powerful zoom lens.)

From very shy to very bold, the kits exhibit differing personalities. They are weaned and appear to be at least two months old. At about four months of age, they will be nearly full-grown and actively hunting on their own. The kits will be fully grown by winter and able to mate and reproduce come next year.

The red fox is primarily nocturnal in nature with the exception of a brood’s kits that spend much of their day outside of the den curiously exploring their immediate surroundings while cavorting with one another as “kids” do.

Photo by CLIFF HILL

The Rockford brood also spends much of their time in watchful anticipation of mom and dad returning with the next meal. They have an eclectic diet and will eat insects, fruits, berries, birds, frogs, snakes, some plants and seeds, and small mammals (up to the size of a woodchuck or, rarely, even a beaver). Remember the old saying, “Don’t let the fox guard the henhouse.”—needless to say, foxes love fowl, especially domestic chickens. (Good thing the City Council banned chickens or we might be overrun by the red critters!) Suffice it to say foxes, like most members of the dog family, are opportunistic and will eat nearly anything available.

It’s important that wild animals never lose their fear of humans and, with this in mind, let us close with a few commonsense suggestions:

• Never approach or touch a fox (or other wild animals for

that matter).

• Never feed a fox (intentionally or not).

• Put garbage out in closed containers or only put garbage out on the morning of pick-up day.

• Most importantly, do not allow small pets to roam free when foxes are present.

Photo by CLIFF HILL

Photo by CLIFF HILL

 

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