Fuzzy wild friends brighten up spring

Bensons happy to host family of foxes, if only for a few days

A baby fox frolics through the bleeding hearts in the backyard of Jeff and Leisa Benson. (Photo submitted)

Clint Riese
Staff Writer

Jeff and Leisa Benson are used to animals scampering through or flapping over their wooded yard on Jody Avenue in southeast Forest Lake.

Turkeys, deer and pileated woodpeckers are frequent visitors to their shaded, peaceful plot. One of their three daughters once even spared the family dog from a run-in with a possum.

The Bensons’ favorite encounter, though, took place four years ago when a fox family made their yard home for a few days. The kits won over their human landlords with a playful attitude and an undeniable cuteness.

Leisa noticed a fox run through the yard nearly two months ago and hoped that marked a return visit. Recently, she had a conversation with neighbors, speculating who would get to play host this year.

Sure enough, another family of foxes emerged from under a shed in the Benson backyard the very next night. This time, Jeff was prepared with a camera in hand.

The Bensons were surprised at the timing, as they had been clearing out the shed and moving equipment around the evening beforehand.

“We were making tons of noise and they probably were like ‘Oh my goodness, what’s going on?’” Leisa says. “And then the next day we see them…”

It was all play and no work for seven to nine fox kits who stayed in the backyard of Jeff and Leisa Benson recently. (Photo submitted)

While the fox family of 2008 had four or five kits, the Bensons were amazed to count between seven and nine this time. (It was hard to get an exact count because the youngsters never stood still.) The kits were shy and uncoordinated at first and had trouble staying on the ledge of a wooden planter.

“They weren’t graceful at all,” Jeff laughs. “They would just fall off.”

Within a day or two, though, any inhibitions were long gone and the kits took to playing tag throughout the yard.

“Just chasing each other all the time,” Jeff says. “They were like little puppy dogs.”

From the planter, the brave tikes branched out to the patio and the fire pit.

“By the end, they were trying to go up the slide,” Leisa says. “They were just having a good old time.”

The family emerged from under the shed each morning and evening for about four days. One morning, the Bensons waited and waited, to no avail. Fox families move around frequently, Leisa notes, and she figures that 20315 Jody Ave. N. was just their first stop.

Alas, life goes on, and the Bensons can now get on with jacking up their sinking shed. Still, though, they think often of their fuzzy friends.

“They were darn cute,” Leisa says.

“There definitely were some bigger ones and smaller ones, so I hope those little ones made it.”