Building Harmony with Italy’s Foxy Wildlife – Part 2

Building Harmony with Italy’s Foxy Wildlife – Part 2

Click here for Part One

Just when you think the tent is properly tethered, up comes a bigger gust of wind. We quickly fell into a bemused pattern of behavior with our charming fox. He entertained us with his clever antics and enthusiasm, and we adjusted our habits to be friendly and supportive, but not excessively, or so we thought. It all seemed to be going well as our fox made nightly rounds, often with his entourage of porcupines, hedgehogs, and farm cats. And he might even have brought in another fox, but they looked enough alike that we could not be sure. We showed off our photos and videos like proud parents, convinced that this fox was indeed the cleverest fox of all, and clearly the most handsome. And we found suitable fox toys to entertain and test him. Yes, we were entirely smitten.

But one dark and stormy night, the cameras showed nothing and his snack was untouched. And all through that night, Italian hunters were shooting nearby. And the next night too, no fox and the bowl of food was untouched. We began to worry that feeding him, even though in small amounts and only every other night, may have made him too tame and unwary of hunters. We were crushed. We thought we had been so careful. For three nights, there was no fox in our garden. We were crushed and felt terribly guilty.

Loving anything makes you vulnerable. If the object of your affection is hurt or worse, gone, love is painful. We began to despair the loss of our fox. Our friends asked about him, and hearing this news that he had not appeared in three days, began to worry too. We were all quite sad. Our enigmatic wild creature had worked his way into our hearts and now our hearts were breaking. My controlling nature wondered if I should have fenced off the ranch to keep the hunters out and block access to the winding roads. But he is a wild creature who cannot be contained and should not be confined. Finally, on the fourth night, our beloved fox reappeared and cleaned out his bowl as before and we cheered. We would not have even minded if he had torn up the garden again. We were just glad he was back and not lost to the hunters. We rejoiced to see him and bought him a nice steak with a big bone to celebrate, though he may have preferred that we had a coop full of chickens to break into.

Yet I cannot but wonder, knowing the farmland and woodland is not really wild in Italy. After thousands of years of cultivation, the woods are well monitored and controlled. The hunters can easily pick off any of the wild animals with ease. If I had more land, enough for foxes, full of rabbits and game birds, and kept the hunters out, would the fox still be a wild thing? Is a preserve anything more than a better zoo, amid such a manicured world? Is befriending the fox and loving him, not the destruction of the very thing I love in him, his wildness? And is this not a taming, though more subtle and with better excuses, and a more concealed dark side? Even if he welcomes and invites this taming, is this not his undoing, if not today, perhaps tomorrow? So just what is this love of mine? And where is the line of respect I should not cross? And who am I to think I can tame a fox, or really love him either?

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