The fox sat in the middle of the clearing as if he had nothing to do. I’m used to thinking of zoo animals as bored, but not wild animals, and this fox on the mile-wide Outer Banks should be feeling pressure to hunt for supper, since there can’t be many rabbits on this spit of land. But he sat still, gazing over the tops of the scrub, bored.
He must have heard our tour-jeep before we saw him, yet as we slowed down to look for horses he glanced over at us as if we were the zoo animals. The jeep stopped, to our cries of “fox! fox!”. Tourists yells didn’t startle him. Foxes are notoriously furtive, but this one could have been hired for the Disney Outer Banks theme park.
A fox’s stare is unlike other animals’ stare. You meet his eyes, and there seems to be a mind looking back. Your life-long certainty that you are the intellect in the mutual gaze with an animal – that certainty trembles. You study each other.
We’re not programmed to feel normal while studied by a carnivore, even a small one. But maybe you get settled from that. But then you get again unsettled, realizing you are being triangulated by a prankster who lives nowhere in particular, and therefore everywhere. You feel mapped.