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The Night Visit

Clearly the “squirrel-proof”, pepper-infused suet is not working. When I restocked four suet cakes into the suet feeder for the first time this season, it didn’t take long for the local gray squirrels to visit the feeder.

The squirrels do have a habit of eating some suet, pausing, as if thinking, “Damn this is hot!” before going back for a second helping. The chickadees, juncos, Steller’s jays, and song sparrows enjoy the spicy suet but it is definitely not squirrel proof!

On the first night that I set out the suet, at about 8:20, I heard an audible thump on the deck.

When I went to have a look, I fully expected to see a raccoon, which are infrequent nocturnal visitor to the feeder. But instead I was surprised to see a gray fox, having a nibble at the feeder.

The fox instantly turned around and sprinted across the deck railing and then jumped off the deck and into the night leaving me gobsmacked. What an amazing encounter! This was the first gray fox I had ever seen in the park! And it had come to visit my suet.

The only other gray foxes I had seen in the county were ex-gray foxes lying by the roadside.

This sighting increased my yard mammalian list to five: grey and red squirrel, raccoon, striped skunk, and now gray fox. (I could add mountain lion but a neighbor reported this apex predator passing between my cabin and my neighbors, but I didn’t see it myself.)

I knew I wanted to do a sketch about the encounter but I wondered how I could do a sketch of a gray fox. I wanted to shy away from copyrighted photographs online , so I chose to sketch an ex-fox, at the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum.

I went to the museum and found the display that included the taxidermy gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). These mount museums are a sketcher’s delight because you can sketch many reptiles, butterflies, fish, birds and mammals that are not moving. I felt like I was channeling the sprit of John James Audubon.

The gray fox at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.