Saddened by loss of 'gorgeous fox kits'

Phyllis Oria of New Milford captured this photograph of fox kits playing in her yard in May. Unfortunately, the kits disappeared a few weeks later.
Phyllis Oria of New Milford captured this photograph of fox kits playing in her yard in May. Unfortunately, the kits disappeared a few weeks later.Courtesy of Phyllis Oria

To the Editor:

We moved to our home in the spring of 1980, and since living here, we have been delighted to witness all sorts of wildlife pass through our backyard.

We watched a mother deer and her three small fawns, a young buck develop his first set of antlers, a bobcat as it passed through our yard, a young black bear, and last year a mother groundhog with seven babies, marching together all in a row.

I have been fortunate to capture some of these tender moments with my camera, which I always have ready.

This year, on the evening of May 22, we were thrilled to witness a mother red fox and her four kits arrive in our backyard. Their den must have been just beyond the forsythia bushes that border our yard.

Each day and evening, we would watch in wonder as these young kits frolicked and played, leaping and chasing each other around just like puppies.

We have a small shed in the yard; one would chase the other around the shed, then quickly reverse, go in the other direction and surprise the other one coming in the opposite direction, then leap high in the air and end up tumbling together in play.

Every day, the mother fox would go off into the cornfield that backs up to our property and bring her young kits food that she would provide, and at the same time, teaching the lessons that they would need to maintain themselves in a few short weeks.

We saw her bring a squirrel, a groundhog, and even the remains of a deer’s leg bone which she must have found in or near the cornfield.

We watched these kits each day. We knew that in just a few weeks they would all be off in different directions as they began their adult lives.

I am thankful to have some beautiful pictures of these kits in play and those tender moments as they interacted with their mother.

During the time they were here, we learned their routine, and I was ready with camera in hand to record their activities and adventures.

Then, suddenly, after 11:45 a.m. on June 5, we did not see any signs of the kits. We watched for them daily, at the time of their usual activity, but there was not a sign of them.

During this period, June 6-9, we saw not a sign of the kits. We did, however, see the mother fox coming and going between the den area and the cornfield.

This was unusual in that it was often, and there was no sign of her kits.

On the evening of June 10, at dusk, I was looking out the window, when all of a sudden the mother fox came from the den area and I noticed she was carrying something in her mouth.

When I noticed the white tipped tail, I must have gasped. She dropped what she was carrying and ran into the bushes.

I called out to my husband. He went out to see and found the lifeless body of one of her kits.

There was not a mark on it, no sign of injury or damage to explain the reason for this kit’s death.

Within minutes of my husband’s return into the house the mother fox came back, gently picked up the lifeless body of her kit and carried it off, even in death, still trying to protect it.

It goes without saying, I could not sleep that night, thinking about what I had seen, what happened, what had befallen these beautiful kits.

What could have caused the death of these gorgeous fox kits?

They had been healthy one minute and gone in a matter of days.

I believe what happened to the one kit, happened to all the kits.

By what hand were these lives taken? Was it the hand of “Mother Nature” or the hand of another?

We will never know, but I truly hope that they did not suffer.

Phyllis Oria

New Milford