SUMMERSIDE – A blaze of red-orange hops along the branches of a spruce tree; finally, with about three feet to ground, it leaps and lands on four light feet.
Alan Mulholland quickly captures the moment.
“As an animal lover it's a great thrill to be able to look out my window on a sunny day and see a reddish orange ball of fur nesting about 25 feet up this tree.”
This is the second time he has seen this behaviour.
“Most folks are in disbelief until they see the photos. The previous time that I had spotted this behaviour was last year when the same fox nested in the same tree.
The Summerside resident and his wife have witnessed a smaller fox dismount a tree in the evenings while a larger, probably male fox, waits nearby.
In the past, Mulholland hasn’t been the biggest fan of red foxes on P.E.I., but since giving up farming his opinions have changed.
“We used to have a hobby farm in Ellerslie, where we kept chickens and other livestock. So we weren't too happy to see foxes for fear of predation. But since relocating to Summerside a little over a year ago, we really enjoy seeing the foxes and other wildlife roaming around.”
Mulholland says he hasn’t seen the fox climb the tree, because it’s usually very early in the morning, but the fox spends most days in the nest and then comes down in the evenings.
Chuck Gallison, a wildlife officer with the Communities, Lands and Environment department, says it’s not unheard of for red foxes to climb trees.
“It’s quite common for them to climb things, including trees. If you think of a cat or other animals that climb trees, it’s usually to get away from predators. Foxes are different. They like to be on higher ground because it allows them to survey their area and see what is going on around them.
“They also like to sun themselves, so for a fox to lay in an old nest for the day isn’t strange.”
As for a possibly male fox waiting near by, Gallison says it is the beginning of the red foxes’ mating season.
“It can go on for a month or more. Wild animals don’t really run on a set time, and foxes pair up at different times; that way not all the kits are born at the same time. The two are probably pairing up at night to mate.”
Gallison reminds Islanders that while foxes are more urban than rural animals it is important to remember they are wild.
“They can be territorial during mating season and then again when the kits are born. So if a fox growls at you they probably aren’t going to strike because they’re actually quite timid. But they are wild animals and should be treated as such.”