Red Fox


Why would a fox be buried with a human? Yes, you heard that right. As some of you may have heard on NPR, archeologists working in Jordan recently uncovered the 16,000 year old remains of a human with fox remains buried along side it.

There are a dozen or more species of fox around the globe in the genus Vulpes. However, including reference to fox of other genera the number is over 30. There are not many places around the globe that a fox does not call home. The red fox, of course is native to North Dakota, as is the swift or kit fox. And although the historical range of the gray fox is eastward of North Dakota, it may have ranged westward into the Red River Valley.

Because fox are so widespread, most cultures have developed with some species of fox in the area. So, humans and foxes have been interacting with each other for millennia. Both species seem to be quite intelligent and adaptable as well.

Perhaps like you, I can recall a friend who had a young red fox as a pet when we were kids. The arrangement did not last much past the first summer, but the animal provided us with some good entertainment. No doubt those of you that have camped in some national or state parks have also observed a resident fox that was successfully exploiting a campground for food. Some of those fox gain quite the reputation and become local celebrities.

Many cultures, including ours have a long standing view of the fox being a trickster. Some cultures even attribute magical powers to the fox. And as would be expected, the fox even shows up in the literature of our culture. Remember The Fox and the Grapes from Aesop’s Fables; Brer Fox in the Uncle Remus stories? One of my childhood favorites was Uncle Wiggily, and Fuzzy Fox was an occasional character in those stories.

So the next time you see a fox, give some consideration to the influence Old Reynard has in our culture. So, why was that fox buried with a human? The fox could have had some spiritual significance. Maybe it was a pet. Man’s best friend is widely regarded as the dog, but maybe 16,000 years ago man’s best friend was a fox.

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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