“Henry James once defined life as that predicament which precedes death.
And certainly nobody owes you a debt of honor or gratitude for getting you into this predicament. But a child does owe his father a debt, if Dad, having gotten him into this peck of trouble, takes off his coat and buckles down to the job of showing his son how best to crash through it.”
Clarence Budington Kelland
Very often in the animal world ( and very sadly, often in the human world, too), fathers have very little to do with the raising and the nurturing of their offspring. This task is usually left to the extremely loving female of the species.
But there are a few exceptions, and the male Red Fox is definitely one of them.
I am very fortunate to have found a place fairly close to my home that is inhabited by these extremely intriguing animals – an old cemetery out in the woods. I often journey there to observe these fascinating creatures, and the male Red Fox could truly be considered a role model for fathers everywhere since he’s an extremely attentive and extremely loving mate and father.
For the first month after the birth of his furry youngsters, the male Red Fox’s mate must stay deep inside their cozy den, doubling both as a food source and as a very effective thermal blanket for their newborn children.
Dad's primary job after birth is providing her with food every four to six hours until she can finally leave the den and start hunting again on her own. And, besides being the diligent family provider, the male Red Fox also truly loves playing with his kids.
At the old cemetery, I’ve watched many a Red Fox Dad joyously cavorting about with his tiny children, playing with them endlessly, especially on magnificent warm Spring days. Some of them even patiently wait for Mom to fall fast asleep before they very quietly call out to their little ones to come play with Dad. I often silently sit out there, completely mesmerized, watching their utter joy.
But after about three months of fun and games with Dad, it's eventually time for life's first extremely harsh lesson for the kids: no more free meals. At this time, Fox parents actually start reducing their children’s food as a tactic to get their pups to move further and further away from the den; and it's usually the father who takes the lead with this sage parental strategy.
But devoted Fox Dads don't just leave their young to starve; they actually help teach them needed survival skills. I’ve even observed them burying food fairly close to their den, and then cleverly disguising it with leaves and twigs. This technique quickly teaches their pups to sniff out food and forage on their own.
The old cemetery area is also now populated by numerous coyotes who will often try to snatch a young fox pup as a needed meal for their own new families; so here, the male Red Fox also can be seen playing ‘ambush’ with his offspring, diligently teaching them extremely valuable lessons in escaping nature’s other predators.
The Male Red Fox – A Most Intriguing Critter – And a Very Diligent, Loving, and Protective Father – A True Role Model for Fathers Everywhere.