The family of foxes we happened upon had at least six kits. They were as curious about us as we were about them.

One of the best things about spring is all the new things coming to life around us. No matter how old we are, we never tire of seeing spring flowers, trees leafing out, and even insects flying about in the air. It’s as if the entire earth is waking up from winter and us with it.

We have a robin’s nest near our front door, in a small ornamental tree we’d intended to replace this spring. Last year, a mama robin built a nest in our Snowfountains cherry tree, but she wasn’t very successful in raising two different clutches to fledgling stage. Something got the eggs in the first clutch and only one survived the second one.

She built another nest there this year, on top of the old one, so it looks sort of like a two-story robin home, but it’s very secure. We’re told that robins have memory and that it’s likely the same robin, so maybe she’s used to people coming and going out the front door. There are only two eggs this go-round and so far, so good.

My husband and I love to take walks and go on hikes around the area (and beyond, when we can). Last week, we happened upon a fox den. I’d seen the parents running away out of the corner of my eye and then we saw the kits at the entrance to the den. Six of them!

We kept a respectful distance as I snapped photos with my cell phone. I wished I’d had my good camera with me, since it has a powerful optical zoom on it, and we discussed returning so I could get some better pictures. A few days later, we had the opportunity to do just that.

Seeing the kits gave rise to a lot of questions, as neither of us knew much about foxes. And being a researchaholic, I delved into the internet to find out more about these little adorable babies that I so badly wanted to hold and cuddle.

Ohio is home to two different species of fox – these red ones as well as gray foxes. These are red foxes, identified by the white tips on their tails. The gray fox is native to our state, but the red fox is very common throughout most of North America. There are both native and non-native red foxes in the US, but our red foxes in Ohio are likely descendants of those brought over from Europe in the mid-1700s.

Foxes are elusive creatures, and though nearly everyone has seen at least one at some time or another, they aren’t seen as often as say, deer. But they’re here. They like to stay in wooded areas, building their dens in a different location every year.

The dens are typically built in the ground, going about four feet deep, although they will also set up a den in a suitable above ground hollow. Mating takes place in winter, and after a gestation period of about eight weeks, the mama fox (called a vixen) will give birth to 3-12 kits. She remains in the den with them while the papa fox (called a dog) continually brings food.

The male can mate with more than one female (though he usually doesn’t), since females will only be in heat for about three days and not all females are in heat at the same time. The kits will remain with the family until fall, when they will scatter and abandon the den.

Red foxes live about 3-4 years in the wild but can live up to 10-12 years in captivity. While it is legal in the state of Ohio to keep red foxes as pets, it is not advisable, as their care is time and resource consuming. They are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals, but they require fresh meat in their diet. They especially need the nutrient taurine. If enough is not supplied, it can cause blindness.

As always, please respect our wildlife and observe them from a distance.