Saturday, September 19, 2015
The Downside of a Fence part 2
We are now pretty sure of our mystery guest's identity because there have been several signs and, last night, a sighting, plus a convincing confirmation from the internet - to do with smell.
We first thought it might have been a fox. This was partly wishful thinking, because the possibility that a porcupine was enclosed in our garden with all its juicy bulbs, corms and tubers just waiting to be foraged, was just too scary.
However, someone claimed that a fox could scale our fence, so we ruled it out. The choice seemed to fall on porcupines or the otherwise-much-sought-after badger.
But then our rustic detectives found evidence. At first it was ambiguous: a pair of eyes shining in torchlight at an imprecise height above ground. It could have been anyone.
The next day a scat was found in the centre of the gravel path which leads up to the vegetable garden. The scat looked suspiciously like a fox's but it might also have been deposited by a marten, which could slip in and out of the fence easily.
Next, a Horrendous Smell in the woods near the gate prompted much internet searching for descriptions of animal marking scents, but on the English-language sites none were more explicit than "horrendous smell/worst smell ever/skunk-like smell" and so forth.
This smell was like putrefaction or, more specifically, like rotting fish.
We began to fear that our guest had expired for lack of food or water.
But then we discovered that further (unsuccessful) digging was now taking place under the north-west section of the fence and that the Horrendous Smell was back. This creature was marking its territory and perhaps signalling to its mates that it was in dire straits.
Further research revealed that foxes and badgers produce similar ghastly smells when in danger, while porcupines smell of very sweaty humans (ghastly enough in itself, but not Horrendous). Which seemed to rule out porcupines, thank goodness.
A badger it might have been, since they are native to this area; just that we have never, ever sighted a live badger around Le Ripe.
And finally, last night, there was a sighting.
About 1230am I awoke to rustling in the fig tree (which has branches close to the ground). I crept to the window with my torch, opened both flywire and shutters as silently as possible and shone the torch outside.
Nothing to be seen. The noises continued. But as I swished the torch right and left I caught a glimpse of a lean, reddish-grey creature with a long bi-coloured tail, loping off into the shadows.
Mr Renard himself. Or maybe Mrs Renard.
In the morning, needing a final confirmation and prey to a sudden inspiration, I looked up 'fox'+ 'bad smell' in Italian. And there it was:
puzza di cane morto/puzza di pesce marcio e gorgonzola
stink of dead dog/stink of rotten fish and gorgonzola
The 'gorgonzola' was a nice touch - if unfair, in my experience.
Le Ripe's mystery guest/ inadvertent prisoner is, and we are 98% certain, a
Vulpes vulpes: a red fox.
...which had not been so foxy when it got itself imprisoned by our new fence.
So there we have it. And now we must try to release it to the wild, specially since I have also read that foxes live in couples. The digging we noticed on the other side of the fence is almost certainly the distressed mate trying to help out.
We have an idea: to create a ramp that the fox can use to climb up and over the fence.
More on this in a later post.