Vexed by a fox

Driving home this evening along a deserted stretch of divided highway, I saw what appeared to be a fox trot across the road with some sort of rodent dangling from its mouth. He disappeared over the grassy knoll on the opposite side. I pumped the brakes and pulled a U-turn, crossing over the median strip, then drove back up the other side of the road.

Soon I saw the fox standing in the thick grass, shaking the struggling body of the small rodent back and forth in his jaws. Finally, the animal went limp and he dropped it in the grass; then proceeded to pick it up again and crush the head in his jaws. Again he dropped it; again he picked it up, dropping it one last time.

Then the fox did a curious thing. Like a small puppy, he lay down on his side and propelled himself forward with his paws through the grass for several yards, at which point he reversed direction, propelling himself back, this time on his back, revealing his white throat and belly.

He stood up with his back to me. I could see the black points on his ears and his black forelegs and bushy grey tail. Once again he dropped into the grass to perform the same maneuver over and over several more times. After he had finished, he searched for the rodent, picked it up in his mouth, chewed the carcass a bit, dropped it in the grass, trotted off up the slight incline and disappeared behind the grassy bank.

I waited to see what might happen. After a minute or two the fox reappeared, returned to the carcass as if to reassure himself that it was still there, then turned and left.

I signaled and pulled out into the right lane, then drove ahead down to the intersection. As I pulled into the left lane to make another U-turn and head home, I caught one more glimpse of the fox as he continued to trot along the grassy bank up the road.

This seemed a bit strange to me. I wondered why he chose not to devour his prey and eventually leave it behind. And why the seeming rapturous play in the grass immediately after the kill?

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