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While few of the bears seemed interested in our camp, the foxes were our bold and curious welcoming committee. The first fox that we met appeared seemingly out of nowhere. It was our first day in Hallo Bay, and I was inside the perimeter of the electric fence fidgeting with some piece of camping equipment. I looked up and noticed that a tiny, dark fox had snuck up on me out of nowhere, and was staring at me about five feet away! He was absolutely adorable, quite small although appearing full grown, and a dark, mottled mixture of ochre yellow and black.
It was June, and he had the scraggly, shaggy, mangy appearance of a fluffy animal in the midst of molting its winter coat. Iím always visually amazed by the length of a foxís tail, which seems to dwarf their entire bodies! This curious little fox sniffed his way around the perimeter of the fence, and then sat down a few feet away with his back to me. He glanced over his shoulder casually in my direction, sniffed the air, and seemed generally quite confident and relaxed. He stayed a few minutes, and then drifted off on lithe feet through the grass, quickly disappearing amongst the strands of grass whose multi dimensional coloring blended perfectly with the foxís speckled coat.
Our campsite is nestled below the side of a steep bluff that extends from the meadows all the way out to the beach. At high tide the waves lap against the grey stone walls of the bluff. The bluff is a common hang out for the bears, and is littered with day beds nestled amongst the tall grass and shade of the cottonwood trees that manage to cling and extend their roots even through stone. Mothers and cubs especially like places like the bluff since the steep climb deters, and even prevents, males who may be too large and heavy to make the ascent. It is also a favorite perching spot, and perhaps nesting sight, for bald eagles. There is at least one pair who regularly spends time there, and I can almost always count on finding one of them scanning out at the sea from the bluffís rocky ledges. In late summer I woke each morning to the high pitched screeches of the bald eagles, and I often wondered if they had one or two babies that were starting to fledge.
I also realized that in addition to the eagles, the foxes were fond of this spot as well. On our second camping trip, while setting up the tent, I notice some slight movements in the bushes off to the side. Staring that way and seeing nothing but leaves, I decide it must only be the breeze. Suddenly, a brilliant orange fox bursts out of the bushes. She leaps through the air in a huge rainbow of an arc, and lands a few feet from our fence. Then the bushes begin to rustle and shift once again. Out leaps a darker fox, and heís air born, his beautiful rust colored coat flecked with swatches of blacks and browns. He lands next to his partner, and they turn and stare at me and my odd collection of equipment. But Iím apparently not all that interesting, because they immediately begin playing a version of chase that involves leaping high into the air between each stride. The orange fox is in the lead, and bounces up and down, inside and out of the bushes, rustling through tangles of leaves, and bounding around the camp. The darker friend follows, light on his feet, soaring through the air with the grace of the most agile of cats. Their bodies are fluid as they leap through the air, but suddenly they both freeze. Directly above, a very large branch cracks as if a tree has been snapped in half. In unison, all three of us whip our heads to stare upwards. The orange fox elongates her neck peering in full attention at the bluff above.
A large, blond, shaggy bear emerges slowly from the trees that crest the top of the bluff, and she drops her front paws off the edge. She lumbers down the steep, dirt trail that leads from the bluff down to the bear trail that cuts behind the willow trees that border our campsite. The foxes take off running in the opposite direction, disappearing instantly. John and I stare at the blond beauty who makes scaling an almost vertical cliff face seem simple. Although her decent does resemble more closely a controlled fall than a climb. Puffs of dirt follow her footsteps as she slides down the trail worn free of all grass from the footsteps of bears. On solid ground she angles away from our tent and heads towards the beach. We are thrilled! It hasnít even been an hour since we arrived and we have already seen two foxes and a bear at our camp!
A short time later, the two foxes reappear. They resume their playful chase, and the orange fox scampers effortlessly up the cliff face, following the trail where the bear had recently descended. Three quarters of the way up she stops, and peers down at her companion. He doesnít seem quite as keen on going up, and lingers at the bottom. The orange fox turns her back to him, squats and pees. She then sits down to wait, the oceanís breeze blowing her long strands of clumpy fur. Eventually her friend ascends, and maintaining her lead the orange fox reaches the top first. They both quickly disappear into the tall grass and tangled alder thickets at the top of the bluff. What a way to start our visit!
© 2008 Jessica Teel