My friend Jeff, a fellow board member of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program, sent me a question about a strange and interesting wildlife encounter he and his family had at their home in Virginia, wondering what my thoughts were about it as a Naturalist.
"My family has been watching a fox family that has been denning in our backyard by the stream for several months now. A Vixen and two kits. For a long time we would see them every morning and most evenings. We even watched the vixen catch and eat a squirrel one morning right in the middle of our yard.
We haven't seen them for several weeks, so we assumed they had moved onto a new home. Then early this morning I saw one bolt of the foxes around the side of the house and to the stream, so I was happy to learn that they were still living here.
And to my surprise when I went out the front door, I saw that it had left me a dead bird and a dead baby rabbit right by my front porch, perfectly laid out and placed side by side.
We don't have any stray or feral cats or dogs in the neighborhood, and our cat has never been outdoors. I know domestic cats sometimes leave 'offerings' of dead animals for their owners."
Here's a picture of the fox's offering (warning: this photo will be gruesome for some, but keep in mind that foxes and other predators have to kill to eat and this is a normal part of nature):
Photo by Jeff Flocken.
Jeff was wondering if it really could have been the fox that left the "gifts" of the rabbit and bird. I was doubtful of that when I first heard the story, because I've never heard of a wild fox doing anything like this. My first thought was a domestic cat, but as Jeff points about above, his cat stays indoors and there are no strays visiting his yard. It's possible that the fox was leaving food out for her kits, or that it was caching food for later--but if either of those were the case, leaving the food out in the open near the front porch of a human house is a really odd place for her to choose.
But, I'm stumped for an alternate explanation. Maybe this really is just a fox with a special love for Jeff and his family? Given all Jeff does to protect wildlife, maybe there's some good karma happening?
What do you think? Have you ever heard of a wild animal doing this?