a death and the fox

Well I saw the fox again, though I wish I hadn’t under these circumstances.

The other day I went to check on the Bretonne Pie Noir calves in the barn. Last week I hadn’t been able to spend too much time at the farm so I was eager to go see them again. Everything seemed to be going well, the calves watched me with curious eyes while still maintaining their distance, sometimes taking a few hesitant steps in my direction. Then, just as I was getting ready to go, I spotted something in the shadows of the corner of the barn.

A calf lay motionless, its stillness a drastic contrast from its lively brothers and sisters playing a few yards away. The fearless fox stood next to the lifeless form, taking a pause from its meal to lock eyes with me before returning to what he had been doing. Judging by the state of the calf it wasn’t the first time in the last day or so that the fox had had his fill.

My eyes widened as I took a moment to process what I was seeing, having never had such a close encounter with the natural cycle of the predator-prey system. I ran to the building next door where Jean-Yves and Annie were doing the evening milking and told them what I had seen. Jean-Yves followed me back to the barn, where the fox was still helping himself to another course. Even when Jean-Yves climbed into the pen the fox didn’t go running. He did stop eating and walk to the other side of the barn, keeping a watchful eye on his meal. Jean-Yves picked up the small body and hoisted it over the wall of the pen. Despite the rather gruesome state the fox had left the poor calf in, I couldn’t seem to look away. A few days ago the slender legs had been propelling the calf around the pen, jumping and kicking with youthful energy. Now the still body was an unexpected reminder that despite all we can do to raise thriving, healthy animals, nature is still a stronger force than we can ever hope to fully understand or control.

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