Territorial gray foxes: “Get out of my backyard!”

Gray foxes are territorial. We have 5 acres of land here (about 2 hectares), which we think should be plenty of room for more than one fox family, but they disagree, and we sometimes see spectacular chases when they’re all trying to settle the question of who gets to live where.

The males seem to be more likely than females to be doing the chasing, but some of our best clips feature Dolly, the mama fox from last summer’s magic tree den family. She is quite recognizable – her tail is unique; long, elegant, and flying like a flag after each successful eviction.

Something we find fascinating – though baffling – is that one of the chasing foxes seems to know precisely where our property line is. His warp-speed pursuits stop exactly at our boundary. One minute he’s flying, the next it’s as if he’s hit a plate-glass wall. The “intruder” runs on, but the pursuer stops, spins around, and trots back into our yard. Job done.

Toward the end of this compilation of “get outta here!” videos there’s a pretty clear shot of Dog Fox, the paterfamilias who moved his mate and kits in from somewhere west of us in the late summer of 2023. He’s probably chasing Broken Ear or Dolly, but we can’t be sure because it’s hard to ID foxes when they’re blurry.

One of our favorite chase videos shows the chaser and chasee flying past the water bowl and racing into the darkness beyond, and a very startled-looking rabbit then bouncing out of the brush and running toward the camera: “You guys should watch where you’re going. This isn’t even safe! You could have run over me”.

At the 43-second mark there’s another surprise: If you look closely you’ll see a little screech owl sitting perched on a branch in the upper right corner and taking flight in alarm as the foxes come tearing past.

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