Recently, an avid blog reader emailed The Inadvertent Gardener with a question:
Dear Inadvertent Gardener:
You seem quite able to control garden pests. How do we get rid of chipmunks that are digging holes all over our yard? I looked on the Internet, and one way to stop them is with fox urine. We have foxes in our backyard, and my husband said he would try to catch one, but how does one get a fox to urinate in a bottle so we can put it where the chipmunks like to create havoc?
Any help would be appreciated.
Thank you from a yard with cute critters that are very destructive.
While I have made it clear that I am not the person to ask for gardening advice, I mentioned the question to Steve, who immediately launched into a detailed response. I asked him to record it, and it appears below:
Hello and thank you for your recent letter to The Inadvertent Gardener. I write in response to your question regarding the ease of inducing fox urination.
You are correct in the sense that such an endeavor presents certain tactical challenges; however, it is not impossible. My experience with induced fox urination is limited to the sorts of silly pranks kids pull, and the tactics I used in those days are a bit crude for your purposes and require no mention here. What follows is not a technique with which I can claim personal experience regarding foxes, although I have used similar techniques with squirrels with varying success (about a 50% mortality rate). Oh, but I'm practically already off topic.
Perhaps you are already familiar with Sir Chellywith Fairbanks?
An Englishman who migrated to nascent colonial America in the late 17th century, Fairbanks was British, a nobleman, who came here and promptly devoted himself to the sport of trapping all manner of game. Ermine, wolf, mink, beaver (which for a time was popular, although today I have trouble imagining anyone wearing a beaver coat), buffalo, finch, chipmunk (!), rabbit, muskrat, marmoset, buzzard and, of course, fox. What Fairbanks discovered, and is documented in his seminal discussion on the topic from which these ideas are culled ("An Introductory History to the Game of the Northern Territories"), is that foxes are inveterate urinators. Truly. The details are immaterial, but most foxes (the gray, the white, the yellow, the black, the red and, of course, the sassy fox — whose primary habitat is Miami Beach) are absolutely mad for peeing. That said, their capacity for relief is only matched by their shyness, which is why I, and Sir Chellywith Fairbanks, recommend the following technique when collecting fox urine.
1. Collect fox.
2. Fox should be kept in a cage, preferably a mesh wire compound that allows for air movement and access on all angles by the caregiver (you).
3. Soothe fox. Cooing is suggested.
4. Take a water bottle, remove its top and, being careful not to scare the fox, attach it to the fox so the fox's ding-a-ling is within the bottle. (If the fox is female, it is easiest to wrap her hindquarters in a plastic baggie. If at all possible, collect a male fox, as their urine is particularly repulsive to chipmunks. Female foxes are more understanding of chipmunk insecurity issues, while the males simply don't give a damn, thinking the chipmunks are plump and delicious. Plus, it's more fun to stick a water bottle on a fox than a baggie. Love the challenge.) How you attach the bottle to the fox is up to you, but Fairbanks advocated moose hide straps belted around the midsection. Velcro is probably a viable solution.
5. Give the fox a minute, as it will be pissed.
6. Tempt fox with salty snacks. French fries are good.
7. Tell the fox you know this sucks. Foxes appreciate empathy, and it will lessen the likelihood that the fox will try to rip all the flesh from your hands.
8. Ask the fox: "Do you like Diet Coke? Because I love it. Boy, oh, boy. It is so tasty." (Fairbanks advocates the importance of really selling the Diet Coke. Get into it. Smack your lips. Go to town.)
9. Fill water bottle with Diet Coke. Offer the fox Diet Coke.
10. If fox refuses, tell it to drink the damn Diet Coke. Use the phrase, "I'm serious." This will work. (The technique is less effective with squirrels, who tend to be more easily frightened and spontaneously combust when threatened, thus the above-mentioned mortality rate.)
11. Start playing waterfall sounds. Fountains are good. Rivers. Rushing water. Trickling is what we are looking for here.
12. Wait, like, three seconds.
13. When urination is induced, help the fox preserve its dignity and avert your eyes.
14. Tap the fox on the rump to make sure it's all out. (Fairbanks advises that both the gray and the yellow fox are poor "finishers" and will often start again after you think they are finished. As this can get messy, make sure your fox is tapped out.) If unsure, give the hips a light squeeze between your thumb and index finger.
15. Remove bottle.
16. Pat fox on head.
17. Pour fox pee around garden.
18. Release fox in someone else's yard.
20. No, I mean really run. Faster.
Good luck and godspeed.