(From the Oakland Tribune) Helen Wren doesn’t have a fox in the henhouse.
She has a family of gray foxes — a mom, dad and six babies — living underneath the rear deck of her home on Elvessa Street in the East Oakland hills. With the numerous trees and bushes on her acre of property, it is like a country scene in the middle of an urban area.
“It’s a little bit exciting,” said Wren, a retired high school English and history teacher who first spotted the kit Sunday morning although she thinks they have been there longer. She said it looked like the babies are a week to 10 days old, “like little kittens.”
She said the mother is “a real tiny thing. I didn’t know they could have such a big litter.” She is pretty sure the babies were born in her backyard and the parents decided to make their den underneath her deck.
She said the foxes drink water out of a backyard bird bath and her grandchildren have seen the parents catch a mouse and a bird for their meals.
Wren has lived in her house since 1986 and has seen deer, turkeys, raccoons and possums but never any foxes.
“It’s like science in your own backyard,” she said, adding she has scoured the Internet to find out as much as she can about her new visitors. “I’ve become attached to these animals.”
Her grandchildren, 9-year-old Zion and 8-year-old Naya, have developed a fondness for the foxes but she is worried about the animals’ well-being, especially with the number of animal predators in the nearby wooded areas.
Even “the birds around here are vicious,” she said.
Wren has seen the foxes both at dusk and in the morning and has captured pictures of them. One of the adults — she thinks it is the father — keeps a constant watch on the little ones and she has heard it howl “like it was trying to warn the little ones about something. They seem to have a strong family structure.”
On Tuesday, she called police and the city Animal Services Section to determine what to do with them. After talking to Animal Services Director Megan Webb, who contacted wildlife rescue experts, it was decided she would let the family stay for a few weeks when they would probably leave on their own with a little encouragement.
Webb said the Oakland hills are a natural habitat for foxes and that radio noises and lighting would probably “make them move to a better location.” Experts say the baby foxes usually learn to hunt on their own at 3 months.
Wren said she is happy having the foxes stay. “I think they have a better chance of survival, and the grandkids are very happy they’re going to be around for awhile longer.”
Webb said foxes are “savvy critters,” which is probably why the parents picked underneath the deck to live. “It’s easy to hide and it’s quiet.”
Webb said she has no doubt the foxes, who are “very, very amazing hunters” will survive on their own. And there is another plus for Wren:
“She won’t have a rodent problem,” Webb said.