Niwot’s Neighbors: Foxes

Violet Oliver, Columnist

In our present society, foxes seem to always play one of two roles. Either they’re the slick con man in one of many Aesop’s fables, or they’re screaming bloody murder and ruthlessly slaughtering the neighbor’s chickens at night. But are these sly creatures just about sour grapes and fowl play, or are humans the ones being tricked into this foxy impression?


Foxes are canines, like dogs and wolves, but they have evolved some incredible abilities of their own. They are the only canines who can climb trees, and they possess the ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field to aid in their hunting. Foxes are also particularly skilled at evading capture, which is perhaps the reason why they have earned a literary reputation as quick and clever animals.


While most fables portray the fox as sly and tricky, exceptions do exist. In some Native American fables, the fox breaks his head on the ice and dies, drives sharp sticks into his nose, or smashes beehives with clubs. In another, the fox throws his children into a fire in an attempt to make them look like pretty deer fawns.


In reality, neither trickery nor stupidity captures the true nature of foxes. Real foxes are omnivores, snacking on berries and fruits in addition to meat. Unlike in the Native American tales, foxes tend to be devoted parents and have been known to bring trapped or injured cubs food for weeks. As it turns out, being sly and crafty doesn’t necessarily mean being heartless.