The headline writes itself: Fox news.
This happens often enough that it isn’t really news: “Dog bites man” rather than “Man bites dog.” But this summer has brought a bumper crop of fox tales, stretching from Bethesda to Fairfax County, too many to be ignored.
Nature is healing and the foxes are looking for something to read.
Frank Kohn lives in Fairfax, a couple of miles east of George Mason University. When his newspaper went missing two mornings in a row, he sprang into action.
Frank is a wildlife biologist, so, of course, he has a wildlife camera. He moved it from the backyard to the front yard and was rewarded with eerie night-vision footage from when it was dark, as well as color images captured after sunrise.
“My camera video revealed a young fox approaching the paper with something in his mouth,” Frank wrote. “He puts that down and takes the paper out of camera range and then returns to pick up what he had left behind.”
What he left behind was probably that day’s breakfast: some kind of rodent.
More than one fox has been involved. Sometimes a fox doesn’t steal the paper, Frank said, but pees on it. Everyone’s a critic.
Wrote Frank: “I hope having to replace papers doesn’t negatively affect The Post’s financial status. Maybe The Post should consider expanding to this vulpine demographic and accepting payments in the form of rodent carcasses.”
Foxes have been stealing papers in Bill McCloskey’s Bethesda neighborhood, too, stashing them in a den in Boundary Park on River Road. Even papers that aren’t stolen are sometimes mouthed, said Jennie Fogarty, who lives not too far away. The plastic bags wrapping The Post often have teeth marks on them.
What’s going on? Experts I’ve spoken to over the years have told me that foxes are curious, as interested in playing with a toy as a dog or a cat. They may like the mouthfeel of a newspaper. They may want to adorn their den with something soft. One way a mother fox teaches its young to hunt is by bringing it bits of food, along with stuff that isn’t food. Dragging a newspaper around is a good way to learn how to drag a squirrel around.
And don’t forget that foxes have lived here longer than people have. They don’t divide the world into people places and fox places.
McCloskey said one commenter on his Bethesda neighborhood’s message list suggested a solution: getting the fox a digital subscription to The Post. Let’s see it drag an iPad around.
Advice and consent
Good advice needn’t be complicated. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be. The simpler a tip is, the easier it is to remember.
The District’s Sue Ruff will never forget a conversation she had with an exterminator. She’d called him after a rat came up through the plumbing and into a toilet.
“What should I do?” Sue asked.
“Don’t sit down without looking,” the exterminator replied.
Then there was the time Sue was at a game preserve in South Africa, preparing to squat in some brush. The park ranger said, “If something comes toward you, don’t run.”
You know, I’m not sure either of these is an example of good advice. Still, what pithy advice will you never forget? Send it to me — with “Advice” in the subject line — at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.