‘It really has brought a lot of joy’: Family of baby foxes moves into Manitoba woman’s yard

A Manitoba woman had some unique tenants living in her backyard this spring.

Leanne Van Bergen discovered a skulk of 10 baby foxes, and two mothers, had made themselves at home on her property in Beausejour.

The kits descended on her home’s yard in early May.

“You look out in your backyard and you see some activity, all these little guys were running around. And I thought they were just kind of coming through, or passing through, but they ended up showing up every day, every evening. Really busy in the mornings, right after the sun comes up. They’re very, very, active. So I made a point of getting up from watching them,” said Van Bergen.

Although some might be apprehensive about discovering wild animals at home, Van Bergen was not concerned. She said she doesn’t have small pets or animals around, and they haven’t been bothersome.

“As soon as I go outside they scurry away. I would love to get close up with them, but no, they’re pretty skittish,” explained Van Bergen.

She said she’s found her “hosting” experience rather entertaining, and began documenting their playful behaviour on social media.

“It really has brought a lot of joy.”

Van Bergen said most of the feedback on social media has been positive.

“On a local Facebook page, I share the videos and I get a lot of great comments. A lot of people appreciate it. But there are a few people that are wondering why I’m encouraging wildlife in my backyard? Well, I don’t encourage it. I don’t shoo them away because I enjoy them. But there’s not much I can do. I don’t feed them. I don’t do anything really for them. I just watch them and enjoy them.”

This is not Van Bergen’s first dalliance with foxes; it is actually the second year in a row that she’s found herself unintentionally hosting a group of furry friends.

“Last year, I had five babies and one mother. And this year my babies have doubled,” said Van Bergen.

She said that last year, she had a lot to learn about fox behaviour and contacted Manitoba Conservation to address some concerns.

“Last year I was concerned about the mother because she looked really unhealthy. And I kind of looked things up and I thought maybe she had mange and I was worried that the little guys were going to get it. So I did get in contact with conservation. They were very helpful. They said that actually, this time of year, the mothers, they kind of shed their fur, so they look kind of raggedly and that it was normal for them to be skinny and lose weight when nursing,” noted Van Bergen.

This year, though, she has a better understanding of what they are doing.

“They play fight, kind of like puppies do or other small animals. They’re constantly wrestling. But they’re just play fighting or earning skills, I guess they need maybe for a hunt, but they’re constantly playing. That’s all they did, all the little ones.”

She also believes there are some familiar faces in the bunch.

“I think these moms I have in my yard, I believe are probably two of the young ones I had maybe last year.”

The hunting behaviour of the foxes seems to have taken an unusual turn this season.

“Last year, I would see the adults come back with a kill; birds, or rabbits, rodents. This year, I’ve never seen that. The only thing they bring into my yard are stuffed toys. So if any one of my neighbours is missing any toys, they can come look at my yard because they just bring stuffed bears and rabbits,” said Van Bergen.

Van Bergen said over the weekend, there was a lot of rain and her yard flooded – which she believes resulted in the foxes to move on from her property and find higher-ground elsewhere.

“They ended up hanging around my front yard the next day, but I haven’t seen them since unfortunately, “Van Bergen said.

Although she misses them, she is hopeful they will once again reappear.

“I’m told they keep coming back if they like the spot. So I’m hoping a couple of these will come back next year.”

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