Sunday, May 30, 2010

Le Renard

I went for a walk in the Arboretum again today, choosing the smaller (and closer) Grady Tract this time. This "little" section of the UW Arboretum is about a mile west of my street, at the corner of Seminole Highway and West Beltline Frontage Rd. That's that little white "square" at bottom left of the map above. You can see how tiny it is compared to the main body of the Arboretum. It was a hot day, and the "coolness" of the Evjue Forest and Grady Oak Savanna were quite welcome.

It did not take me long to realize I was not alone. In fact, I had walked less than fifteen minutes before I realized I was being watched.

Can you see him watching where the path curves away from me?

How about a close-up?

At one point my new friend disappeared into the forest undergrowth, only to show himself again a short time later.

Then he slipped into the dense undergrowth again. Though I could not see him, I knew he was trotting along somewhat parallel to me. The trail I was on curved slightly northward where four paths intersected near a small woodpile. I saw his head bobbing along the trail long before our paths met, so stopped, zoomed in, and was able to get this shot as he turned onto the path in front of me.

He trotted on ahead of me, glancing back every now and again to see that I was still there, and occasionally stopping, looking at something along the trail-side, then looking at me as if to say, "look at this!" Then he would be on the move again, only to stop a few feet further on to turn and contemplate his unlikely companion again.

Alas, he eventually exited the trail, one last look at me from behind a couple of trees, before he was off following some scent he'd picked up. The encounter reminded of the chapter in Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) where the prince meets the fox.

"What does that mean--'tame'?"

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. It means to establish ties."

"'To establish ties'?"

"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."

. . .

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

"Please--tame me!" he said.

. . .

Sigh...One of my favorite chapters in any book!


Please note: I did NOT chase after the fox. He chose to share himself with me; I admired him from a respectful distance with a zoom lens. Even wildlife that is used to the presence of humans should not be trifled with.


Alice Audrey said...

You are so lucky being able to actually live in the arboretum. I always lived in the East side of the Isthmus.

That is so cool, not only that the fox kept you company, but that you were able to get pictures. I had a trivial version of this happen today. As we were walking through
Grenough Park, a magpie followed us, flitting from tree to path to tree, trailing behind us for about a block.

Heather said...

Cute story with the magpie. Was it Heckle or Jeckle (and how badly does that reference date me)?

Up until HS we lived mainly on the east side of the isthmus, too. Aside from Olbrich Botanic Gardens and Cherokee Marsh, there really isn't anything like the Arboretum or the many nature preserves on the west and south sides.

Some of the best years were on MacArthur Rd, near Stoughton Rd. The property was near a marsh that provided a small pond and creek for skating and an AWESOME sledding hill in winter. Alas, during the early 90s (years after we'd moved away) they decided to "improve" Stoughton Rd to make it safer, razing the hill and draining most of the marsh in the process. Now there's a Walmart and a grocery store back there. *shudder*

I much prefer living near the Arboretum and Dunn's Marsh than a Walmart.

Angela said...

How neat! I once saw a fox walking through my neighborhood, right down the sidewalk - he trotted along across the street from me and my dog for about half a block, and then he ducked into somebody's yard on his way to the prairie restoration.

Latesha said...

Good grief! Weren't you a little nervous about your friend following you? I'm sure he would have thought you to be a tasty appetitizer.

Heather said...

Angela: A fox trotting down the sidewalk - now that would be something to see!

Latesha: Nah...not scared at all. More like in awe. Though foxes are omnivourous, they prefer very small mammels (like mice) or insects or even small birds and berries. Unless rabid or threatened, they are relatively undangerous to humans who respect them. Emphasis on humans who respect them. ;)

Jana said...

Awesome! You find the coolest friends, Trix. :-D

There's a fox that apparently has a nest somewhere in the woods behind my house. Occasionally in the mornings I'll see him darting from the woods behind my house to the woods across the road. Once or twice he's stopped, sat and watched Libs and me. They must be curious creatures.

Heather said...

Jana: Yes, they are very curious animals. From the NTA:

"Red fox are curious animals, indicating intelligence. However, their suspicious and shy nature compels them to avoid obvious dangers. They are playful, another indication of intelligence in animals. Some seem to enjoy being chased by dogs, and some red fox will make a game out of uncovering traps. Many times a dropping will be left on the uncovered trap, or nearby, as a communication either to the trapper or to other fox who might happen by."