As per usual, let me start off with the most sincerest of sincere apologies for the pathetic lack of documented photographic evidence of what I am about to relate.
Remember the Sunday evening show “The Wild Kingdom?” Nature in all of its natural glory. Gazelles being gorged upon by gigantic lion prides. Hyenas ripping chunks out of carrion as they dodged the wayward swipe of a lion’s paw. Dried up water holes and dying-of-thirst animals.
I seem to only remember the drama of life and death. I suppose that is either good or bad. But that is neither here nor there. Sunday evenings left an indelible image on my impressionable brain.
This was all tempered by the Wonderful World of Disney in which animals sang and danced and talked. I met an old horseman in California named Bud who told me the animal world was doing just fine until Walt Disney came along. And then he (Mr. Disney) ruined it for the entire “industry” (for lack of a better word). Bud went on to explain to me that until Bambi, deer were just deer and it was ok to hunt them and eat them and whatnot. But Bambi changed the dynamics of the world forever.
Eventually I went to veterinary school, where I was able to witness life and death of animals firsthand. I was even fortunate enough to travel to Africa the first summer of vet school with EnviroVet, a program designed to expose veterinary students to wildlife research and medicine. Invaluable experiences for sure. And ones that helped me return to the premise of The Wild Kingdom and the belief in the cycles of nature. Now, to be sure, Mr. Disney never shied away from the harsh realities of life. Bambi’s mother meets an untimely death and he is left a sort-of orphan. Enter the modern-day Bambi story and you have Simba and Mufasa. “But dad, don’t we eat the antelope?” “Yes Simba. That is the circle of life. The antelope eat the grass, we eat the antelope and when we die, our bodies become the earth. The grass grows. And the circle continues.” (I totally paraphrased that sentence, sorry.)
And now I am SO far past where I started out that I had to go back to my title and try to remember what I wanted to write about.
Ah yes. The Wild Kingdom in full technicolor in our front yard.
And I would have left to get the digital camera so that I could have snapped off some shots worthy of the best wildlife photographers out there, but truth be told, I was mesmerized. Captivated by the circle of life unfolding before our eyes.
Hypothetical question: if a fox were to catch a rodent, which end would he eat first–the tail or the head?
Seriously not kidding here. Yesterday afternoon, instead of working on the map of Asia and all of its countries, we stood at the bedroom window and watched our resident Brother Fox pounce on a rodent, pull it up out of the snow with its tail dangling out of one side of his mouth, and then proceed to devour it whole. With the tail and back legs twitching until they disappeared. Not kidding. We were transfixed. And I have no photographic proof, but the darling diva will certainly corroborate my story if need be.
Then he licked his lips (really) and trotted on over to the bird feeder where he proceeded to clean up the ground of all the fallen seed. A not very smart chickadee almost became the fox’s dessert but quickly flew out of reach. That was totally cool to see as the fox jumped up into the air and almost caught the bird. Not so cool for the bird, but seriously dude, you must pay attention out there. Survival of the fittest and all.
We’re fairly certain Brother Fox is a brother as he’s seen marking territory and leaving pieces of scat strategically placed to drive the dogs bonkers. I don’t think a female would do that, but then whoever knows with The Wild Animal Kingdom?
For a split second, I felt as if I shouldn’t let the darling diva witness the fox devouring the rodent, but just as quickly I relished the opportunity for her to see life, up close and personal. In all of its finalities and unpleasantness. It was a grand teaching moment, one that we have visited many times over, since the first viewings of The Lion King and the death of Mufasa.
So maybe Mr. Disney had it right all along, eh? A healthy dose of reality doled out by the cute singing, dancing, wisecracking characters of his shows.
Regardless. As tough as it must have been for that rodent (I couldn’t tell what it was…too big for a mouse, but a long tail so not a mole…??), the fox needs to eat to survive.
Circle of life and all.
(P.S. In answer to the hypothetical posed above: the head first. Much easier to get the squirming, wriggling creature down the hatch.)