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A red fox spotted near the Maroon Bells visitor center.

Saturday, August 18 was a beautiful day at the Maroon Bells. A much-needed rain greeted us in the morning, with the entire Maroon Creek valley overflowing with clouds. As the clouds lifted, the vegetation felt lush and animals soon began to stir. Before long, a red fox emerged to enjoy the freshly moistened montane meadow in the shadow of the picturesque Maroon Bells. Surprisingly, this fox showed little to no fear of humans, walking right up to a group of people waiting for the bus. Although this presented an opportunity for us to educate these visitors about local wildlife, it was also alarming - from a Naturalist perspective - to witness how comfortable this particular fox felt around humans.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is a very adaptable canid and is the most geographically widespread carnivore in the world, occurring throughout North America, Eurasia, and northern Africa. In Colorado, the black legs, bushy tail, and oversized ears of the red fox can be spotted in a variety of habitats ranging from alpine meadows, to open woodlands, to agricultural areas. Red foxes mainly eat small rodents, rabbits, birds, and other supplemental protein, such as insects and the eggs of ground-dwelling birds. However, these small carnivores are also extremely opportunistic and will eat whatever food is available to them.

Unfortunately, the opportunistic nature of the red fox means they are extremely vulnerable to becoming dependent on humans. To us, these adorable, playful canines may remind us of our own domesticated dogs and it can feel tempting to offer young fox kits a piece of human food. It is our responsibility, though, to maintain the wildness of these creatures by keeping our distance and disposing of our trash properly. Living in close proximity with wildlife allows for great opportunity to learn about the natural world, but it also means we have a responsibility to recognize that we are only one species in an area that is home to many.

-Words & images from Summer Naturalist Samantha Stovall.

A red fox takes a seat near the Maroon Bells visitor center.