Woman Feeds Foxes Only To Realize Years Later What She's Gotten Herself Into

Woman Feeds Foxes Only To Realize Years Later What She's Gotten Herself Into

A Strange Turn Of Events

Facebook/Lucy Goacher

She moved closer to the window, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her. It was not unusual to see a crowd in her back garden every night. After all, she’d been feeding foxes for years. But this time, the crowd was a little different. She worried that this new development would incite a fierce conflict among her wild visitors -- one that she wouldn’t be able to resolve. She stood there watching, asking herself how she’d gotten to this point.

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Not Messing With Foxes

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If you had told Lucy Goacher years ago that she’d be feeding wild foxes every night, she would have said you were out of your mind. "My family and I have had fox visitors for years, but like a lot of people we believed they were dangerous creatures and that they'd be a danger to our cats," she recalls. And it’s not an uncommon opinion to have. After all, foxes do have somewhat of a troubled reputation.

They Are Everywhere

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Foxes are a group of species of the Canidae family, cousins to dogs and wolves. They exist in every continent except Antarctica and some species, like the red fox, are widely distributed among many regions. Foxes mostly hunt small reptiles and birds but, being omnivores, they’ll eat almost anything if the opportunity arises. This scavenger behavior, along with their perceived intelligence, has led many people to believe foxes are a threat to watch out for.

A Rocky Relationship

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As the human population has grown, contact with foxes has become more common -- though it hasn’t resulted in a positive relationship. Since foxes often prey on livestock like chickens or baby lambs, they are considered nuisance animals. In many countries, fox hunting is a popular activity. For centuries, we’ve seen foxes as either pests or game. But as urbanization gradually forces them into human environments, a new perspective has emerged. And Lucy came to discover it in a surprising way.

Not As Bad As Many Think

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Lucy lives in West Sussex, England. The United Kingdom is one of the places where the red fox has thrived, having adapted to urban and suburban environments with great success. However, people with small pets, such as Lucy, fear for their safety around foxes. These are misconceptions, though. British wildlife officials explain that urban foxes encounter many cats every night, and they mostly ignore each other. Same goes for dogs. So Lucy decided to give the foxes a chance.

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Taking A Chance On Them

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Despite what many may think, British wildlife officials do encourage people to feed the foxes in their vicinity. “Lots of people feed foxes, either regularly or occasionally, and get a great deal of enjoyment from doing so, but please be aware they are wild animals -- feed and watch them, but don't try and tame them,” they advise. Taking this into consideration, Lucy started putting out bowls of food for the foxes that visited her garden. She had no idea of the chain of events this would bring about.

Feed Them And They Will Come

Lucy Goacher

Lucy’s fox feeders were an instant success. Every night, four foxes would show up and happily munch on the provided food. Lucy’s cats would sometimes be in the vicinity, but no conflict ensued. She was amazed at how wrong she had been. “We realized how gentle they really are,” she said. And so Lucy became an avid fox-watcher -- which led to an interesting discovery.

Becoming Regulars

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Every time she could, Lucy would look out the back window and watch her fox guests as they dined. She also took a lot of photographs -- some that even included her cat! Then one night, not too long ago, she noticed there was a different sort of visitor coming to see what was for dinner. It would usually show up after the foxes had had their fill and left; then it would eat their scraps. And there was a good reason for that.

The New Guy

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The newcomer was a little hedgehog. Given his size, Lucy understood why he would wait until the foxes were out of sight to munch on the leftover food. Clearly, he didn’t want to become part of their dinner. And so it went for a few weeks, with Lucy marveling at the increasing number of species visiting her garden at night. But then, something changed.

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A Bold Move

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One night, as the foxes were chowing down in Lucy’s garden, the hedgehog showed up. "He marched straight through the assembled foxes and started on a bowl," Lucy recalls, remembering how her hair stood on end as she fretted for the little critter’s life. "I was terrified they'd attack him.” Time stood still as she watched the scene, fearing the worst. Then something completely unexpected happened.

The Gamble Pays Off

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It didn’t seem the foxes were too interested in a hedgehog dinner. “Instead they just looked at him with curiosity, like they couldn't believe his boldness, and they left him alone to munch away," said Lucy. The hedgehog finished the bowl and left, while both Lucy and the foxes stood and watched. Realizing his gamble had worked, the brave critter began doing this every night, forcing the foxes to wait until he was done before getting their own dinner. That is, until one of them decided to take a closer look.

Breaking The Ice

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One of the four foxes seemed to have decided there was no reason to let the hedgehog eat alone. After all, there was plenty of food to go around. So he started walking up to the bowls and eating beside his spiky new companion. "He's very happy to eat beside the hedgehog," says Lucy. The hedgehog also didn’t mind, as he happily continued eating. And as they slowly warmed up to each other, a beautiful scene unfolded.

Sharing Is Caring

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One night, the hedgehog and the fox met up for dinner as they usually do. But this time, to Lucy’s delight and surprise, they decided to share a bowl. It was a scene straight out of a Disney movie. Meanwhile, the less friendly foxes continued to patiently wait for the hedgehog to be done and gone before eating. It was clear who had the better arrangement here.

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Mutually Beneficial

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Most of us would never imagine a fox and a hedgehog could be so comfortable with each other that they eat dinner together every night. But it makes sense, considering the benefits this arrangement has for both of them. The fox gets first dibs on the food, while the hedgehog has a mighty friend to ward off any threats. That said, this doesn’t mean the other foxes are happy about it.

Small But Mighty

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“Not all the foxes are happy about this themselves,” explained Lucy. “A couple will sit on the grass, glaring as the VIP guest munches its way through bowl after bowl, patiently waiting their turn for some dinner.” It dawned on Lucy who was the real boss of the garden. “Despite its small stature,” she said, “The Hoggo runs the joint! Although his fox friend also gets to enjoy the perks.

Bonding Through Food

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To Lucy, this unlikely friendship shows the power of a good meal. "I assumed the hedgehog would be in danger or at least avoid the foxes entirely," she said. "But they're united by their mutual love of free and plentiful food. Something that can be said for most humans too, I imagine."

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