I have never been fond of foxes.
My dislike was triggered by a particularly unfortunate incident involving my childhood chickens and our local fox. In my head, I knew that the fox was just doing what it needed to—perhaps it had hungry cubs to feed—but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this fox had a personal vendetta against me.
My prejudices were challenged on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
I had been at Rectory Farm with the intention of doing some work, but a sudden shower had dampened my enthusiasm. After standing in the shed for 20 minutes, staring dejectedly out at the pouring rain, the sun tentatively emerged from behind the clouds. The deluge slowed, and I began walking down the track toward the hedge line.
A flash of ginger fur stopped me in my tracks. Two foxes stood not 10 metres ahead of me. We mirrored each other; frozen in place, watching intently to see who would make the first move. I had never seen a fox at such close range; I had only ever seen their tails scurrying away down alleyways, or their eyes lit up in my headlights at night. I had been expecting mangy, skinny creatures with dull eyes—but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. They were covered with fluffy, bright orange fur, contrasted against a clean, white bib and legs dipped in black. Just as I had begun to admire them, they split; one ran back into the burrow, and the other ran further along the path.
Thinking my encounter was over, I set to work. After a few minutes, I paused, sensing that I was being watched. I looked up, and saw one of the foxes sat on the border of the field. There was no expectation in his posture—no aggression, no fear. The fox looked at me with bright, curious eyes, and I stared back at him. I continued to work. Occasionally, I thought he had lost interest and returned to his den, but just as I began to lose hope, a flash of ginger would catch my eye and I’d spot him—still watching—in another corner of the field. I worked for over an hour, and his eyes never left me.
It sounds silly, but I will never forget the way that fox looked at me. When an animal looks straight into your eyes, it puts you on a level playing field; you are both just animals trying to survive.
From now on, I will always be fond of foxes.