Crazy like a fox

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.

19. Run.

20. No, I mean really run. Faster.

Good luck and godspeed.

17 Responses to “Crazy like a fox”

  1. 1 Jeanne June 8, 2006 at 9:36 am

    OK – who’s going to try this first?

  2. 2 Maggie June 8, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    Don’t bother… it doesn’t work. We actually purchased fox urine once. I too wondered how they get it. When I commented to the sales clerk that I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just pee around the garden he said – you’re not a fox. I replied – that’s a matter of opinion!

  3. 3 steven June 8, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    The Jack Russell kills her share of chipmunks around here, but the grand champions are the crows who seem to kill at least one a day. This leaves the other 7 million inhabitants of the subterranean city they are building under the yard.

  4. 4 inadvertentgardener June 8, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    Jeanne, I’m waiting to see if anyone follows these most excellent instructions…we’ll see. :-)

    Maggie, where did you actually find fox urine for sale? That’s hilarious. Perhaps Steve can use his technique and go into business at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market or something…

    Steven, so the crows leave a carcass a day in your yard? Ick…I’m glad we’re not having that situation.


  5. 5 steven June 8, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    no carcasses, they’re feeding them to their babies I think..they do leave the skins and tiny feet in the birdbaths though.

  6. 6 Mom June 8, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    Surely someone has written a doctoral dissertation on the whole subject of fox urine and its impact on the chipmunk, the garden, and the person who collects it. Think I will try “Dissertation Abstracts.” Way to go, Steve!

  7. 7 Nancy June 9, 2006 at 7:43 am

    I guess we will need to import crows also. Have not seen the fox since he read this column.

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2006 at 7:51 am

    Uh oh, Nancy…a literate fox. I might have to consult with Steve…perhaps he knows a good list of reading material to use to distract the fox long enough to nab him?

    :-) Genie

  9. 9 Nancy June 9, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    Genie – He/She is foxy. Perhaps they will need to read playboy or GQ. Perhaps the fox realizes that the chipmunks have been dining of poison peanuts. We did not see one this afternoon when we got back from Chattanooga but we will see what transpires through our kitchen window in the morning.


  10. 10 Jenn June 9, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    Any meateater urine will suffice.

    *looks skyward innocently*

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2006 at 9:26 pm

    Jenn, I’m having a large chuckle at the moment… I have other friends, though, who swear that their own urine really didn’t do anything.

    Wait. Now that I think of it, the friends who told me that were vegetarians.

    Hold up…

    :-) Genie

  12. 13 inadvertentgardener July 22, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    Oh, Sparky, catching the fox is half the fun! What else does one do with all their Diet Coke?

  13. 14 A.J. Valliant October 16, 2006 at 9:55 am

    “Collect fox.”

    I used to collect foxes.
    It was fun, but I neededed alot of weights and patience to press them properly
    between the pages of my scrapbook.

    I was only three away from having a complete set when forrestry officals kicked in my door and busted me for poaching; sad days followed.

  14. 15 engtech October 16, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    I was only three away from having a complete set when forrestry officals kicked in my door and busted me for poaching; sad days followed.

    Best Week Evar.

  15. 16 inadvertentgardener October 16, 2006 at 9:11 pm

    A.J., I bet it was a hell of a scrapbook… :-)

    Engtech, it definitely sounds like it!

  16. 17 Danyelle April 1, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Hello there, Happy April Fool’s Day!!!

    A man was in a bar. Hoping to strike up a conversation with a distinguished looking fellow sitting nearby, he said, “May I buy you a drink?”
    “No,” said the man coolly, “Don’t drink. Tried it once and I didn’t like it.”
    “Would you like a cigar?”
    “No. Don’t smoke. Tried tobacco once and I didn’t like it.”
    “Would you like to join me in a game of gin rummy?”
    “No. Don’t like card games. Tried it once, and I didn’t like it.
    However, my son will be dropping in after a bit. Perhaps he will join you.”
    The first man settled back in his chair and said, “Your only son, I presume?”

    Happy April Fool’s Day!

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