Fox on the Water


The hub of Breckenridge night life seems to be The Village. I know this because I was nearly involved in 3 collisions and a few Luke Dukes slid across the hood of my car as I sat at a pedestrian cross walk (I was NOT moving)… And all I wanted was the free employee dinner!

In the middle of this highly developed minitropolis of leisure lies Maggie Pond, a testament to yoked wilderness. Concreted in and perfectly maintained by a decorative dam, I can’t help but hope to ice skate on it once frozen solid.

On this cold, moon bathed evening the ice was thin and sprinkled with snow. A brave little fox trotted across the water. Dozens of people walked along the railing, never noticing the extrinsic interloper prancing in their midst.

Cutting a fine figure in the moonlight, he moved adeptly, stooping to scoop water from the surface. His tail was blonde, the end a dark brown. All fur considered, tail was equitable to torso. Sharp eyes darted in a narrow face. He took not to be noticed for granted, pausing warily when he caught me watching. I eased back, declaring myself an observer, not a predator. I have always been curious about how animals navigate ice.

Pattering along some presaged path, he made his way, helter-skelter, across the pond. About 7 feet from the ledge he stopped dead. Hunching down between tensed shoulders, bowing then recoiling, apparently changing his mind.

He paced some unseen boundary of safety, pausing frequently and making as if to jump, only to abjure and sniff out another launching point. Time and again, until he came across a large tank in the water. The ice was visibly thinner between he and the hunk of metal. He seriously considered it, but again decided against jumping.

Ever so tentatively, Jesus Fox edged his front two paws out before him. Shifting forward but maintaining back paws, he dropped heavily between shoulders. Inching forward, he did it again and again; bobbing on ice, testing it. When this maneuver caused a cracking sound, he spidered back quickly but smoothly, keeping weight low and widely distributed.

He returned to casually lapping at tiny liquid pools, dodging about but always moving, and always tasting, sniffing, watching, listening for that right place to leap from.

What struck me was the innate caution of all his maneuvers. A few times I tried cajoling him, “just run real quick and you’ll make it!” “Come on, jump! You got this!” But only he could calculate risk to benefit and make that decision. Ample fur allowed him a greater staying power than my jacket afforded me, so I will not know his decision.

Although, I suppose there is a reason I’ve never seen a drowned fox in freezing water. They feel out the limit, test questionable ground, and listen before leaping. We would do well to follow suit.

And if you have an extra 50 seconds, watch how a Polar Bear does it!

One thought on “Fox on the Water

  1. Kendall says:

    This post nicely balances out your previous one about taking risks. Dogs don’t seem to be as wise as foxes regarding ice. Ken S had to call in a 10 man rescue team to get a Retriever who was frozen into their lake.

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