Foxes in the field

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Jeff Coon, a resident at Augustana in Hastings, was acting a little crazy Jan. 10 — at least that's what his neighbors thought, he said. He was standing outside in the cold wearing just shorts and a T-shirt, taking pictures of something he doesn't see very often: a male and female pair of foxes meandering around the grounds.

In the four years Coon has lived at Augustana Park Ridge, he's seen other foxes around the property, but not like this.

"I've always seen just one and ... that one was always moving fast," Coon said.

This time, there were two, and they weren't moving very quickly.

One of Coon's neighbors identified them as a male and a female.

"As we watched these foxes moving around, the male was always right behind the female, following her," Coon said.

His neighbor suggested that their behavior might be due to the season; according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, foxes are solitary animals except during the mating season, which is winter (mid-January to February, to be more exact). Coon said that the male at one point tried to go toward Pine and 15th streets, but his efforts were rejected.

"She would not follow him there," Coon said. "Inevitably, he came right back to her."

The foxes came as close to a patio near a room where people were getting ready to play bingo, but by the time Coon made his way to the area, they had already left.

"They were just very, very pretty," Coon said.

The City of Cottage Grove website offers tips for living near foxes. Although foxes, like coyotes, tend to avoid people, easy access to food can bring them into urban areas, where they begin to get accustomed to humans. The city recommends people avoid feeding foxes and suggests people can use "hazing" methods — yelling and waving your hands at the animal — to help them avoid becoming too comfortable around humans.

According to the DNR, foxes eat mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, birds, snakes, fish, insects, berries, nuts and seeds.