Monday 10 September 2007

Naming names

Tipless is so called because he has no white tip visible at the end of his tail. The brush in question is a fine, rotund, black-over-tan appendage and it has a blunt rather than a pointed end. I am told that every fox's tail has a white tip, but if so, you would have to catch Tipless unconscious to look for perhaps two or three white hairs at the very tip.
I have always used the tail-tip as a means of identifying the foxes. These animals are not easy to recognise, especially moving fast or at a distance, or, as we most commonly see them, slumped in a sleepy pile. They are particularly difficult to sex, unless they adopt a pose that allows a glimpse of the undercarriage. That old phrase "a big dog fox" doesn't hold water: we've seen large vixens and small males.
So mostly I name them from what I can see. The tail-tip is good because it varies a bit, from pointy to blunt, large or small, narrow or wide or shaped in some way. The bib area on the chest can be dark or white, deep or narrow etc. The feet always have a bit of black but it varies also; we once watched a cub we called "inkyfoot" because he seemed to have been dipped in treacle right up all four legs. There is also coat colour, a little shading or marking, and any scars or limp etc.
All that said, it is still quite tricky to identify them even if one knows them well; a pair of binoculars by every window is a great help. Over the last decade or so we have watched at least twenty foxes from our window; now I am running out of names!

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