What does the fox say?

Submitted by the National Historical Park Service, San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, and Wolf Hollow

Remember the song “What Does the Fox Say?” that was all over the place a few years ago? It was a catchy earworm, sometimes to the point of annoying. But what if we could actually ask one of the foxes here on San Juan Island what they would say? Let’s find out.

Raising kits on this island has usually been a safe proposition. For years, the most I had to worry about were the eagles attempting to snatch away one of my babies. Recently, however, there’s been a crush of strange creatures standing upright every spring, often with black oblong objects in their front paws. I can’t be sure if they mean harm or not, so I’m keeping a watchful eye. How can I leave my kits, who are so new to the world they don’t know what’s safe, to search out something for dinner? I keep thinking they’ll leave, but they’re surprisingly patient, staying in the same position for hours. I need to eat so I can feed the little ones, but I dare not go too far–I can’t be sure they won’t take one of my kits when my back is turned.

Every now and then, one of these aliens will hold out something else in their paws. The smell is intriguing, but I’m not sure. Is this a trap? As I watch, one of my neighbors approaches and grabs the item. His expression says it’s delicious, so perhaps I should try. Certainly seems easier than trying to catch those wily voles. It’s not as filling though, and my kits whine loudly when there’s not enough milk. So now I keep an eye out for those loud, large creatures that these other aliens emerge from, hoping for more. Sometimes I try strange smelling items left on the wood structures near the beach, but only when the aliens aren’t watching. My kits look on, learning my techniques. They’ll need to know this someday.

That’s the sort of thing I imagine a fox would say, if they could speak English. Perhaps in a delightfully British accent á la Beatrix Potter. But since they can’t let us know what they’re thinking, we have to speak for them. Much like we protect our own kids and prepare them with the skills they’ll need, we can help fox parents raise their kits with all the skills they need to live in the wild by watching from a distance and not offering them food. And perhaps, if we’re quiet enough, we’ll hear a “ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding” * or two.

*Lyrics from “What does the Fox Say?” If it’s now stuck in your head, I’m sorry.