A red fox mother nurses her five pups near their den beneath a shed in the backyard of Jim and Virginia Sowell’s home in Atlanta. Red foxes are becoming more and more adapted to urban areas in Georgia. VIRGINIA GARDNER SOWELL

Red foxes rearing babies in an Atlanta backyard

Jim and Virginia Sowell have a foxy backyard this spring. A family of red foxes — including five babies — have taken up temporary residence in a den beneath a shed behind their home in the Oak Grove area of Atlanta.

“I don’t know why they chose our yard, but I’m glad they did,” Virginia said.

No one offered them food or any other enticement to lure them there, she said. The foxes, though, obviously find something appealing about the Sowells’ yard. Three years ago, another red fox family also denned near the same spot in their yard, staying more than a month. (A pregnant fox mother digs a den before giving birth and may use the same den year after year.)

From a hiding place on her deck, Virginia often watches the “new family” of backyard foxes as they go about their daily routines. Although foxes are shy and primarily most active at night, it is not uncommon for them to appear in daytime.

During the day, the five pups scamper and frolic about, staying near the den under their mother’s watchful eye. At feeding time they hungrily suckle her milk while she stands patiently to let them get their fill. She and her mate feed themselves with an occasional squirrel, chipmunk, mouse or other small creature caught in the neighborhood.

Considered monogamous, both male and female parents work together to raise fox pups until the pups disperse at about six months of age.

The Sowells’ friends and neighbors eagerly follow Virginia’s photographs and videos of the animals on Facebook. Red foxes appear to be adapting more and more to urban areas, and so more city dwellers may be hosting them in the future.

A note of caution: Foxes can carry rabies, so the best advice is to do as the Sowells do: Simply leave the animals alone and enjoy watching them from a distance.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be full on Sunday — the Flower Moon, as the Cherokee people called April‘s full moon. Brightly shining Venus is in the west just after dark and sets an hour later. Jupiter rises in the east about an hour before midnight and will appear near the moon on Monday night. Mars and Saturn rise out of the east about an hour after midnight. Saturn will appear near the moon Friday night.

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